WASHINGTON -- One way to combat the growing tension around these flailing Mets is to do exactly what Terry Collins did Wednesday afternoon.
Call a clubhouse meeting, preach the importance of accountability, caution against finger pointing and try to rekindle some of that first-half fire.
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Or take the Miguel Batista approach: shrug off the Mets' sixth straight loss, 4-3 to the Nationals Wednesday night, and construct your own reality after serving up the deciding two-run double to Steve Lombardozzi in the seventh inning.
"I haven't seen a team better than us," Batista said. "I believe we are the best team in baseball. We just have to play like one."
Maybe trainer Ray Ramirez made a mistake in checking Batista's right leg after he was drilled by Roger Bernadina's line drive that same inning. Listening to Batista afterward, he sounded as if that ball hit him in the head.
In any case, Batista said his leg was fine, so it looks as if he'll remain on track to start Saturday against the Dodgers. But that's not really comforting for the Mets, who have lost all five games of this trip, six straight overall and must rely on R.A. Dickey Thursday to help them avoid going home winless.
Collins did what he could to inspire his sinking club before it fell to one game over .500 (46-45) for the first time since May 5. Part of that pep talk involved telling his team that help is not necessarily on the way.
"Quit worrying about who we don't have," Collins said he told the players. "You better worry about who's sitting in this room, because this is who's gotten us here. This is what's going to have to move forward. There are no saviors."
Again, they didn't go down without a fight. David Wright, who was a triple short of the cycle, led off the ninth with his 12th homer and Jason Bay drilled a two-out homer off Tyler Clippard that clanged off the foul pole in leftfield -- his second hit.
"Things aren't going to happen," Bay said of the urgency of the Mets' situation. "You have to make things happen."
Only this time, Jordany Valdespin -- Captain Comeback himself -- couldn't get it done as a pinch hitter. Clippard got revenge for Tuesday night by striking him out to end the game. The Mets are eight games behind the division-leading Nationals.
Adam LaRoche was 3-for-25 (.120) against Chris Young with a homer before taking him deep. Lucas Duda made his first start since he was sidelined Saturday (hamstring) and was 1-for-4 with a double, scoring the Mets' first run. But they had only four hits off Jordan Zimmermann in six innings and went 1-for-8 with men in scoring position.
Despite Valdespin's go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss, Collins still chose to start Bay against the righthanded Zimmermann. The reason? Defense.
"When Chris Young pitches," Collins said, "we need to really make sure our outfield defense is as good as it can be because he's such a fly-ball guy."
A tense clubhouse felt a little tighter for the Mets yesterday. Losing the way they lost the previous night was bad enough -- blowing two saves after two inspired comeback efforts. But Collins was more concerned about Pedro Beato's breakdown of the game-ending wild pitch.
Beato meant no harm in saying the "yanked" curveball got away from Josh Thole, but he apologized to Thole anyway yesterday. Thole called it a "non-issue" and Collins wanted to make sure things stay that way.
"I want these guys to understand there's accountability here and we don't point fingers ay anybody," Collins said. "We all stand up and when things aren't going good, we take our licking. Otherwise we watch each other's backs and continue to move forward."