Lifeless Mets are getting tougher to watch

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Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.

Sunday is Banner Day at Citi Field. Hopefully none of the banners will say this:

"I texted my son after they lost one of the games this week and said, 'It is impossible to watch.' It is impossible to watch. When you care about them as much as I do, and a lot of Mets fans do, it's just so hard to watch sometimes."

The speaker was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday on WFAN's "Boomer and Carton" show. He probably was speaking for a lot of Mets fans who witnessed Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Nothing makes a team tougher to watch than errors and a lack of offense. The Mets had both Saturday in losing their seventh in nine games to one of the few teams in the National League that has a worse record.

Arizona, the last-place team in the NL West, improved to 19-31. The 21-26 Mets fell back into last place in the NL East, a half-game behind the Phillies.

If things don't improve soon, the five-game series in Philadelphia Thursday through Monday is going to be one only a baseball masochist or cheesesteak aficionado can love.

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Not even Zack Wheeler could rescue the Mets from a buzz-less defeat on a rainy late afternoon/early evening.

Wheeler went 62/3 innings and was charged with three runs (two earned) to fall to 1-5 with a pedestrian 4.31 ERA.

Wheeler's starts used to be events, but this year he has settled in as just another arm with potential on a team full of them. Matt Harvey has been more interesting this season even though he hasn't thrown a pitch.

Wheeler fans can lament the lack of run support Saturday and the fact that the Diamondbacks' third -- and eventual winning -- run was unearned. But unearned doesn't mean Wheeler wasn't more than a little responsible.

Arizona led 2-0 in the third when Paul Goldschmidt reached on a one-out throwing error by shortstop Wilmer Flores on a ball in the hole. After a strikeout, Wheeler hit Aaron Hill with a 2-and-2 pitch before Martin Prado grounded an RBI single to left. Sure, the error hurt. But the two-out, two-strike HBP hurt just as much.

Wheeler also was bailed out by two excellent defensive plays: a leaping grab by Chris Young at the leftfield wall in the fifth and a diving stop for a forceout by David Wright in the sixth after another hit batter.

Still, Terry Collins called Wheeler's outing "a huge step forward for him," which sounded like the manager trying to pump up the 23-year-old. Wheeler labored through the early innings (68 pitches in the first three) before catching a wave.

Without those excellent plays by Young and Wright, though, the middle innings might have been more taxing for Wheeler, who threw a career high-tying 118 pitches.

There was no huge step forward for the Mets' offense against the team with the highest ERA in the NL (4.63).

The Mets had 11 baserunners but were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight. The biggest offender was Lucas Duda, who left seven men on base.

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"Yeah, that was tough, man," Duda said. He didn't add "to watch." He might as well have.

Add in the periods of rain and drizzle at Citi Field and the small crowd of 24,551 and it wasn't a day for excitement in Flushing.

"Get 'em tomorrow," Duda said. The Mets will have two shots at that, as Friday's rainout led to a rare single-admission doubleheader Sunday.

Registration for Banner Day begins at 10 a.m., with the fan procession on the field soon after. It's a great Mets-only event and a credit to the organization to bring it back a few years ago.

But if Banner Day festivities turn out to be the most watchable thing about a day with two games, Gov. Christie and a lot more Mets fans will be getting ready to spend their leisure time watching something else. Soon.

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