The Mets had just looked helpless again -- falling behind in the count, flailing at hittable pitches, retreating to the dugout wearing looks of frustration.

But to put a finger on the reason is impossible, hitting coach Kevin Long said. Not when things are going this poorly.

"When you're going through stretches like this, it's a number of things," Long said shortly after the Mets' fifth straight defeat, 1-0 to the Braves on Sunday. "You get some good pitches and you'll miss them. You'll expand the zone some. Guys won't come through in a clutch situation. Or it could be six, seven guys not swinging the bats. It's a mixture of all of that stuff."

Whatever the reason, the Mets enter Tuesday night's series opener in Milwaukee against the lowly Brewers desperately in need of a victory.

They stand on the edge of a full-fledged tailspin, weighed down by an offense that has routinely squandered strong pitching.

It happened twice on what has been a winless road trip. Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey absorbed 2-1 and 1-0 losses, respectively, thanks to a lineup that has looked non-competitive.

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"It's never fun to go through it," Long said. "When you're going through it, it always seems like it's the worst ever. But we'll come through it. We'll be fine. We just need to stay together and keep fighting together."

If not, the consequences could be dire. In the standings, trouble surrounds the Mets.

The first-place Nationals hit their stride in a weekend sweep of the Pirates. By winning three in a row, they opened a 11/2-game lead over the Mets.

The Braves loom just a half-game behind the Mets, who soon could find themselves looking up from third place.

Since the end of the Mets' 11-game winning streak in April, a surge that brought them to 13-3, they have gone 23-32.

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Injuries have ravaged the lineup, though the impact has been most visible during their current five-game slide. Indeed, Monday's break in the schedule came at a good time.

"Sometimes you want a day off to come," Long said. "Sometimes you don't. In this case, we need this day off. We need to regroup. We need to come back and be ready to go in Milwaukee. That's the only thing you can do."

The Mets have scored six runs in the first five games of the road trip. As a team, they have a .174/.238/.271 slash line. They have struck out 35 times and drawn only 10 walks.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with the approach," manager Terry Collins said. "We're just not squaring any balls up. As I said the other night, we're hitting fly ball after fly ball, routine fly balls."

In the last week, only Kevin Plawecki and Ruben Tejada have managed to maintain an on-base percentage above .300.

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Meanwhile, the struggles of Dilson Herrera (.059) underscore how the Mets have been burned by leaning on inexperienced fill-ins with Daniel Murphy and David Wright on the disabled list.

"We're young and there's some guys in the lineup who are finding their way through the major leagues," Long said. "That's OK. We'll go through it now and hopefully by the end of this, they become better players. That's what you need to do."