And just like that, all hope seemed to fade from Citi Field.
News of David Wright's last-minute scratch from the Mets' starting lineup cast a shadow over the team, which came into Tuesday night's game against Washington seeking its fifth straight win. But that air of uncertainty quickly turned to elevated concern once the severity of Wright's injury was revealed.
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An X-ray Tuesday night showed the Mets third baseman has a small fracture at the middle joint of his right pinkie finger and he could end up on the disabled list.
The team initially thought he had jammed his pinkie Monday night against the Nationals when he slid into first base on a pickoff attempt in the third inning. But the X-ray proved otherwise.
"You can't determine anything when it's puffy and swollen like it is now," Wright, standing with his swollen finger tightly wrapped, said after the 6-2 loss to the Nationals -- the Mets' first defeat of the season. "If I can't play, sooner rather than later, I understand they can't be down a man 10 days or so. I want to get out there and play as soon as possible, but ultimately it's not my call. No one ever wants to go on the DL, but sometimes it just works out that way."
According to the team, the injury is "non-operative." Wright will see a hand specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery Wednesday and receive a custom splint for his finger.
The loss, which thwarted the Mets' chance of tying their franchise-best 5-0 start from 1985, highlighted how vulnerable their lineup is without the hot-hitting Wright.
"It changes some things,'' manager Terry Collins said of the third baseman's absence.
Despite missing time during spring training with a torn abdominal muscle on his left side, Wright hit .583 (7-for-12) and had an RBI in each of the first four games.
But their depleted lineup, which featured Ronny Cedeño playing third base and batting second, Daniel Murphy batting third and Justin Turner making his first start of the season at first base for the struggling Ike Davis -- did little in Wright's absence.
Starter Dillon Gee (0-1) allowed four runs (three earned) and eight hits, striking out six and walking one, in 51/3 innings. He settled down after allowing a leadoff home run to Ian Desmond, but the offense couldn't bail him out.
And just as Wright's X-ray results were delivered over the PA system in the Citi Field press box, former Met Xavier Nady singled to left, knocking Gee out of the game with one out and two on in the sixth.
The Nationals (3-2) scored three runs in the sixth to blow open the game and Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly in the eighth, his 500th RBI, made it 6-1.
Cedeño (three hits) doubled in the final Mets run in the bottom half of the inning.
But the defeat paled in comparison to the prospect of losing Wright for a significant period of time.
"I doubt right now that he'll play [Wednesday], but we'll see," Collins said. "[In] my experience, it depends on the fracture itself. If it's not something they have to set, you go play. You deal with the pain and you play through it.
"Worst case, right now, is he misses a little time. Best-case scenario is he takes [Wednesday] off and is ready to go on Friday once he gets the swelling down."
Initially, the team thought Wright had merely jammed his pinkie finger.
Wright is no stranger to the disabled list. He missed two months last season with a lower-back stress fracture.
If the third baseman is sidelined for a significant amount of time, Collins said he'll have to revamp his middle infield, using either Turner or Cedeño at third base.
"It's always tough to miss time," said Wright, who added that he couldn't grip a bat because of the pain. "I'm more concerned that it kind of breaks up the momentum that we had. But there's nothing you can do about it . . . I never would have thought that I'd manage to fracture a finger diving back into first not getting picked off."
Notes & quotes:
Turner played first base instead of Ike Davis, who was given most of the night off. Davis (0-for-16) pinch hit with two on and two outs in the seventh, but struck out.