This, the Mets demonstrated again Sunday, is your brain on a losing streak.
With the score tied in the seventh inning, two outs and nobody on for the visiting Phillies, Mets catcher John Buck couldn't hold on to pinch hitter Laynce Nix's foul pop-up that would have retired the side.
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Whereupon Nix, his at-bat extended, singled to center. He went to second on Jimmy Rollins' single and both scored when pinch hitter Ryan Howard greeted Mets reliever Scott Atchison with a lusty drive over the head of centerfielder Collin Cowgill. Chase Utley chased Howard home with a sharp single.
So the Mets lost, 5-1, and just keep finding the rough in a baseball diamond. Swept by Philadelphia in the three-game series -- each time because of a crash-and-burn big inning -- they fell to fourth place in the National League East at 10-13.
One can pick among several developments Sunday that further dimmed the Mets' spirits: the Buck error that prevented starter Jonathon Niese from completing a tidy seven-inning, one-run, three-hit afternoon; the two first-inning errors, including a bad throw by Niese and David Wright's bollixed fielding chance -- his first error in 78 games -- to put Niese into a pitch-count deficit right away, even though he escaped without allowing a run; or . . .
"By the way," Mets manager Terry Collins said, "I don't know if anybody else was watching, but we only got three hits. So we need to get better at that, too."
Niese (2-2) was taking his regular turn after being struck in the right ankle by a batted ball in the third inning Tuesday against the Dodgers. He said he felt fine and was demonstrating as much. Only Freddy Galvis' leadoff home run in the fifth inning really hurt Niese, until . . .
"I was going into softer dirt," Buck said of his scramble after Nix's foul ball in the seventh, right onto the warning track to the left of home plate. "I felt myself slide a little bit. Just kind of on the run. I mean, it hit my glove. I should've gotten it. Anything that hits my glove, I should catch it."
Buck "kind of had to maneuver around the on-deck tools, on the run," Niese said. "It definitely wasn't an easy play. You never want to make errors, but I was part of that , and you've just got to battle back."
Instead, the plot was similar to the Mets' recent wandering through a batting desert. Ruben Tejada led off the first with a double and Wright brought him home with a one-out single. But Wright was stranded when Buck struck out and Lucas Duda's hard ground ball was smothered by Frandsen's nifty play at first base.
From there, the Mets were droning the you-can't-go-home theme. Even though eventual winner Cole Hamels (1-3) struggled a bit with his control, walking six batters in six innings, the Mets not only didn't score again but conjured only a single hit -- Tejada's second double of the game in the seventh -- through the last eight innings.
The closest the Mets got to a rally was when Hamels walked the bases full in the fourth before striking out Niese to kill what felt like a low-level threat. The Mets left eight runners on base and Collins in a state of bewilderment.
"We came into the last six games swinging the bats great," he said. "I do not have an explanation. We just didn't hit."