Jeremy Hefner, Mets offense struggle in loss to White Sox; Mets 0-7 after Matt Harvey starts

Mets starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner delivers against the

Mets starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner delivers against the Chicago White Sox in a baseball game at Citi Field. (May 8, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

The Mets were only playing a Twitter prank when they suggested Matt Harvey would be at Madison Square Garden to watch the Rangers in last night's Game 4 against the Capitals.

Harvey, of course, had to be at Citi Field with his teammates. As for everyone else who showed up, and there weren't many in the sparsely populated seats, the joke was on them.

Instead of seeing playoff hockey, a fraction of the paid attendance of 21,470 got to witness Jeremy Hefner pitch just well enough to lose as the Mets stumbled, 6-3, to the White Sox.

Alejandro De Aza's game-opening home run spoiled any grandiose visions of no-hitters or shutouts for Hefner, and other than Lucas Duda, who hit a tying homer in the second inning, the Mets barely showed a pulse, whiffing 12 times.

In their last nine games at Citi, they have scored a total of 22 runs, which breaks down to a 2.4 average. The Mets are hitting .181 during that stretch, with 83 strikeouts in 282 at-bats, and have scored two runs or less in six of those games.

Speaking of Harvey, they are now 0-7 after his starts.

"It doesn't matter who's pitching," said Justin Turner, who had two of the Mets' eight hits after entering in the eighth inning and later played leftfield for the first time in his career. "We've got to go out and win ballgames. That shouldn't be a factor in it."

Oh, but it is. These days, unless the Mets get the type of shutdown performance Harvey usually provides, they have little chance of coming out on top. Hefner (0-4) had a bad third inning, allowing three runs on four hits, including a bloop two-run double by Conor Gillaspie.

Hefner settled in after the leadoff homer to retire seven of the next eight, but it was De Aza who harassed him again in the third with a one-out bunt single. That started a troublesome stretch for Hefner, who gave up three runs on a handful of balls that weren't hit very hard.

After De Aza came an infield single by Alexei Ramirez and an Alex Rios' RBI double. Gillaspie followed with a pop-up double that dropped in behind second base for a 4-1 lead.

Once again, Hefner calmed down. He stranded Gillaspie at third and then allowed only two more hits over the next three scoreless innings. But with his pitch count at 94, and the Mets desperate for offense, Terry Collins pulled Hefner for pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd in the sixth.

"He didn't let the game get out of control," Collins said. "I think that's all you can ask for from your starting pitcher."

There are different degrees of that, as Harvey showed the previous night with his one-hit, 12-strikeout performance, a masterpiece that wound up as a no-decision. But when Hefner was pulled, the Mets trailed only 4-1, before Scott Atchison and Jeurys Familia each served up a run in the eighth and ninth innings to put this game out of reach.

Duda struck out as the tying run with two on in the eighth. After the Mets scored in the ninth on Mike Baxter's triple and Ruben Tejada's base hit, Juan Lagares also stepped up to the with the chance to tie it -- and promptly whiffed on five pitches. The Mets went 2-for-8 last night with runners in scoring position and are now hitting .194 (19-for-98) in those spots over the last 14 games.

"In some situations, it looks like we're pressing," Collins said.

And that's not funny.

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