"They had one of the best pitchers in baseball going today," left fielder Jason Bay said of the Giants. "We knew it was going to be a battle. It kind of stings even more that we got that close off of Lincecum."
"Close" offered no solace in what became a wind-blown 6-5 loss to the Giants, snapping the Mets' home winning streak at nine. Close didn't help Jenrry Mejia, who coughed up Aaron Rowand's game-winning two-run home run; nor David Wright, who struck out four times and was ejected; nor Perez, who walked seven batters, hit another and threw a wild pitch in 3 1/3 innings.
But close, on this day, was all the Mets had.
Close was what Bay had, at least, leading off the ninth with the Mets trailing by a run. Against Giants closer Brian Wilson, Bay launched a high fly ball that appeared headed straight to the left-field wall. Instead, a strong left-to-right wind knocked it back closer to the infield dirt, where Juan Uribe misplayed it into a double.
Uribe's blunder went to waste when Wilson struck out Wright, Ike Davis and Jeff Francoeur in succession, allowing both sides to take cover in the climate-controlled clubhouses. So Bay could not help but wonder what might have been on a more pleasant day.
"I venture to say it would have been close [to a home run]," he said. "It definitely wasn't a no-doubter, but I hit it real high."
Gusting over 30 miles per hour at times, wind played a factor all afternoon -- on Bay's game-tying two-run single in the seventh, for example, and on Rowand's game-winner in the eighth. For the Giants, the wind flummoxed them all afternoon, making the baseball do incomprehensible things. For the Mets, the wind was a nuisance, helping carry Rowand's shot over the wall in the eighth.
"The ball was going everywhere," Francoeur said. "It was like a circus out there."
"The environment's out of my control," said Wilson, who admitted to becoming more focused after Bay's double, despite hot-dog wrappers and soda cups littering the field. "The only thing I can do is try to do everything in my power to throw strikes and get outs. It's not part of my job description to be concerned with wind or garbage."
Nor were the Mets overly concerned -- they had greater issues to endure. Perez's inadequacy reached a new low Sunday, with seven walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch. Unable to become comfortable on a day when temperatures hovered in the low 50s, Perez threw just 44 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
That, of course, was a problem.
"It's strikes," Bay said. "He didn't give up any hits. The pitches that he throws in the strike zone, guys aren't hitting."
Indeed, the offensively challenged Giants mustered just two hits off Perez, then another two off Raul Valdes, who fired 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief. But the walks hurt, forcing Manuel to defend Perez's rotation spot after the game.
"He's trying just as hard as anybody on the field," catcher Rod Barajas said. "He's not trying to throw balls. He's really trying to make the adjustment. He's trying to get the feel for it. But for some reason -- whether it's the weather, the wind -- he's struggled the last two times here. He has not been able to make the adjustments he's needed to make."
"I have to be better than that," Perez said. "I'm disappointed. I'm just mad at myself because I have to be better than that."
Still, almost inexplicably, the Mets had a chance. Executing their game plan well, the Mets chased Lincecum after six effective but inefficient innings. Then they jumped all over San Francisco's bullpen, thanks to Bay's wind-aided single and Wright's go-ahead sacrifice fly.
"The wind was tough," Manuel said, noting that the Giants had more trouble with the conditions than the Mets. "Wind and sun made it a very difficult game for them. I thought we handled it pretty well."
But "pretty well," like "close," does not win ballgames. Strong starting pitching and timely hitting do, and the Mets had none of the former and little of the latter.
As a result, they lost at Citi Field for the first time in 10 games. In a matchup that appeared lopsided on paper, they could not even shrug and tip their hats to Lincecum.
This one hung on Perez and the Mets.
"We've played well at home so far this year," Wright said. "It would have been nice to win today. But we had an uphill battle and just couldn't pull it out."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.