The schedule says that the Mets travel to Houston and Pittsburgh this week for two of the easier pit stops in the National League. But in reality, they will be on a road to nowhere, as the Mets' season likely ended last night with a 3-1 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field.
Despite Jerry Manuel's pleas for urgency, and his hope of using a win over the Phillies as a springboard, the Mets' flickering playoff dreams dissolved in the sporadic rain. Mike Pelfrey pitched seven solid innings, but the Mets' only run came on Jose Reyes' solo homer in the third inning as they finished 3-3 on the homestand.
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The Mets are 10-19 since the All-Star break and now trail the first-place Braves by 10 games - their biggest deficit of the season. Thinking wild card? The Mets (58-59) are eight games behind the Phillies and Giants.
"We've dug ourselves a hole," David Wright said. "Playing .500 baseball obviously isn't going to cut it. The frustrating part is it would be nice to pick up our pitchers and score some runs for them on a consistent basis and we haven't been able to do that."
In the last nine games, the Mets' rotation has a combined 1.44 ERA, but the team is 4-5 during that stretch. That's not an encouraging sign as the Mets look at an uphill climb ahead, even with some players clinging to that shrinking window of opportunity.
"It's definitely closing," Pelfrey said. "The season is going to end some time. But I honestly believe we still have a run in us - better sooner than later. In 2007, we had a seven-game lead with 17 left - and there's a lot more than 17 games left. A lot can happen."
With the Mets, however, the story is what's not happening at the plate. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position last night, were 0-for-11 in their last two games and finished the homestand batting .088 (3-for-34) in those situations.
When asked if the Mets had enough firepower in their lineup to get back in the race, a despondent Manuel shrugged. "Not right now, no," Manuel said. "The way we're swinging right now, no no, no. I feel we have enough in the personnel. But we haven't unlocked that formula for a long time."
The Mets are hitting .212 in 29 games since the All-Star break and they scored a total of nine runs during the six-game homestand. The previous low for a homestand of that length was 15, back on July 5-11 against the Reds and Braves.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Wright said. "We aren't putting ourselves in position to score runs and we're not scoring runs. This isn't a team really built around playing for a three-run home run."
After Reyes' homer, the Mets barely dented Kyle Kendrick. He retired six straight and 15 of 17, with Luis Castillo reaching base twice - on a leadoff bunt single in the fifth and two-out walk in the seventh. With Castillo sparking the offense, Manuel was asked if he might start him again Monday night.
"I have no idea right now," Manuel said. "I think I might take a shot at it. I hit .105."