It is safe to say the Mets are suspended somewhere between "Be patient" and "Do something!" They exist with a live-for-the-future longing amid regularly reordered lineups, with hunger constantly at the door and a figurative pebble in their shoe.
Last night, they were just competitive enough that their 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds was especially maddening. Marlon Byrd's three-run home run in the third inning brought the Mets back from an immediate 3-0 deficit. But the Mets (17-25) produced only two singles the rest of the night (they had five hits in all) and Mets starter Shaun Marcum (0-5) surrendered the deciding homer to Jay Bruce leading off the sixth.
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"Just take the positives and move on," Byrd said. "Keep fighting through and see what happens. We had a big inning, got some runs. Just couldn't finish it out."
Not surprisingly, with the feeling of living in such a cruel world, Mets manager Terry Collins and relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins were ejected by plate umpire Tom Hallion for arguing Hallion's hit-by-pitch call that sent Brandon Phillips to first base in the seventh. Both Collins and Hawkins believed the ball had hit Phillips' bat.
Collins contended that because Hallion didn't think it was a foul ball, "then it's got to be some sort of swing." But the no-swing ruling stood.
"I just asked him to check," Hawkins said. "It's not that hard. Just talk to me like a man, that's all."
It turned out that their griping wasn't necessary. Though Phillips' pass to first loaded the bases with two outs, Hawkins struck out Bruce to end the inning just before the ejections.
All this just when the Mets had found a little comfort in winning three of their previous four. The stress factors seem to intensify as soon as each new game commences.
Before he got a second out, Marcum had been scuffed up for three runs. A leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo preceded consecutive one-out hits by Joey Votto (a single off the first-base bag that actually put Votto at second when first baseman Ike Davis interfered with Votto's attempt at a double), Phillips (two-run single) and Bruce (RBI double).
"Location," Marcum said. "We've been through this -- for what? -- five starts. Just location. I make a mistake and they get hit. Got to limit the mistakes."
In the bottom of the first, the Mets' offensive response was to load the bases, then strand all three runners on the woebegone Davis' groundout to second.
Byrd, playing rightfield because of his success against Reds starter Johnny Cueto, sent his tying homer over the original leftfield wall in the third after Rick Ankiel singled and David Wright walked. But the Mets didn't get another hit until 13 batters later, when Justin Turner singled off reliever J.J. Hoover with one out in the seventh.
So the rummaging to settle on an effective batting order goes on. Daniel Murphy, hitting leadoff a second time, had his hitting streak end at eight games (0-for-4). Wright's streak was scuttled at seven (0-for-3).
What to do with poor Davis, his average down to .152, continues to create a domino effect, with Ankiel (1-for-3) batting second, Lucas Duda (2-for-4) fourth, and so on. "He's still here," Collins said of Davis before the game. "We still need to play him, so I took him out of the fourth spot because Lucas is actually swinging the bat well, even though his numbers don't show it. Maybe this is the series Ike gets it going."
Meanwhile, all the Mets' averages are below average.