Manager Terry Collins, who lit things afire with his bullpen usage in the sixth, said he's "very concerned" about Parnell, who came off the disabled list earlier in the day. Entering a two-run game in lieu of Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel, Addison Reed or any number of other plausible options, Parnell walked the first two batters he faced, committed a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt and then watched from the dugout as Eric O'Flaherty and Carlos Torres turned his handiwork into an eight-run inning.
The velocity was there for Parnell, who routinely hit 96 mph in the outing. But nothing else was.
"It's been a long two years," said Parnell, who underwent neck surgery in Sept. 2013 and Tommy John surgery last April. "It's just little things. I felt great. My arm felt really good, felt like the ball was coming out well. It's been moving a lot more than it had. I just couldn't control it."
Niese told a similar story after giving up six runs in five innings to take his 10th loss.
"The good news is I feel really good," he said. "My fastball had a lot of life to it today. I just didn't execute certain pitches at certain times."
To some extent, Niese is in a similar situation as Parnell, even if his footing remains considerably sturdier than that of his longtime teammate. A Met since Sept. 2008 -- yes, he played a role in the team's second straight collapse that month -- Niese was enjoying a fine summer until just recently. He seemed to be a near-lock for the playoff rotation.
But Niese has now allowed at least five runs in each of his last three outings, good for a 9.92 ERA. If the postseason started today, he might still merit strong consideration for a Game 4 start -- but Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and even Bartolo Colon are now breathing down his neck.
Still, Niese admitted to having "zero concern."
"I know what I need to do," he said. "I know I'm capable of doing it. It's just going out and doing it."
Despite the struggles of those two, the Mets retain a fine chance to make the playoffs thanks to how poorly the Nationals played in August. But if Parnell wants to sniff October after slogging through so many April through Septembers, he needs to start pitching well -- and fast.
"I want to help the team as much as possible," he said. "I want to be there for them. I'm going to continue to work to get better. That's all I've done for the last seven years. It's all I know."