Matt Harvey gets little help as Mets lose to Pirates

Matt Harvey looks on from the dugout in Matt Harvey looks on from the dugout in the bottom of the sixth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field. (May 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Ike Davis took the news as a challenge.

Despite his lingering issues at the plate, Mets manager Terry Collins let the slugger know that for the first time in three weeks, he would find his name in the cleanup spot. It was part of an overarching strategy to revive a Mets offense that has flatlined.

"I just told him he's the guy," said Collins, who decided that the time had come for the Mets to lean on their most powerful bats.

But as he's done the entire season, Davis and his big bat came up small in a 3-2 loss to the Pirates Sunday.

Pitching phenom Matt Harvey kept the Pirates to just two runs in seven innings -- even though he lacked his best stuff. But Pedro Alvarez's eighth-inning single off Mets closer Bobby Parnell pushed the Pirates ahead for good.

The Mets, who nearly rallied in the eighth, were instead undone by a combination of bad luck and bad plate discipline. They received a dose of the former when with two outs and two on, Lucas Duda hit a bullet down the first-base line, only to watch it hit off the base and shoot straight into the air.

It landed harmlessly in the glove of second baseman Brandon Inge, who threw to first to end the eighth inning.

"You can't really cry about it or moan about it," said Duda, who hit a solo homer in the second. "Just go out there tomorrow and play hard, just do the same thing every day."

But just as critical was Davis' strikeout with one out in the eighth, on a curveball in the dirt from the Pirates' Mark Melancon, stranding both runners.

"That's an at-bat that I have to come through and I didn't do that," said Davis, who finished 0-for-4 to drop his average to .180. "Definitely, let the team down Monday. But I'll have my chances this year, and hopefully, I can capitalize on those opportunities."

For now, the Mets seem content to give Davis some leeway.

Exactly a year ago, the first baseman was hitting just .175 and the front office began discussions whether to send him to the minors. But his bounce-back second half last season has spared him similar talk even as he's languished once more.

But in another way, Davis' instant replay has also been tougher for the Mets to stomach. The Mets were 19-14 a year ago. This year, they are 14-20, six games under .500 for the first time this season. And things aren't getting any easier.

The Mets begin a four-game series in St. Louis on Monday against the Cardinals, who at 23-13 have emerged as the class of the National League.

"We've been hit now with a two-headed monster," said Collins, who has watched the Mets lose three straight. "We're not hitting. We're not pitching. Certainly, we've got to get it going. There's no secret formula on how to do it."

And aside from Harvey, the Mets have gotten inconsistency from the starting rotation, and the offense has spiraled into a mess. The Mets mustered just four hits against the Pirates in the series finale, capping off a putrid stretch of games at Citi Field.

In their last 13 home games, they're hitting .194 and scoring 2.5 runs per game.

The blame is shared. Daniel Murphy and John Buck, who sparked the Mets in April, have struggled in May. Duda has also fallen into a slump after a strong beginning.

But unlike Davis, each of those three hitters have carried the team.

Said Davis: "I've still got time."

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