New York Mets second baseman Alex Cora #13 completes a...

New York Mets second baseman Alex Cora #13 completes a double play in the top of the seventh inning during game one of the double header against the San Diego Padres at CitiField. (June 10, 2010) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

The Mets had only a few opportunities to score off a very sharp Carl Pavano Saturday in their 6-0 loss to the Twins, with their best chance coming in the fifth inning.

After four innings, the Mets had one hit, a bunt single by Jeff Francoeur. Two-out singles by Rod Barajas and Francoeur in the fifth gave the Mets a chance to cut into a five-run deficit, but Alex Cora grounded out to short on a 3-and-2 pitch.

Staying sharp and having a hitting rhythm is always the biggest challenge for a role player. Cora, who has been sharing time with Ruben Tejada at second base with Luis Castillo on the disabled list, was victimized by Pavano's nose-diving sinker and changeup that keeps batters off balance.

"Sometimes you get in between being aggressive and being patient," said Cora, who is hitting .229. "Sometimes [an approach] works for you and sometimes it doesn't. Today it didn't work out for me. I had a 2-0 fastball down the middle, but I didn't feel it was a good pitch to hit for me in that particular situation probably . . . It's just about feeling and you just battle at-bats, just try to make quality at-bats and forget about the results."

Castillo last played June 1 before heading to the DL with bruised feet three days later. In 20 games since then, Cora and Tejada have gone a combined 21-for-75 (.280) and scored 12 runs in games started at second base.

"Obviously, he's getting the bulk of the starts," Cora said of Tejada. "He's doing a pretty good job. Whenever I get my weekly starts or whenever it is, I try to do my job . . . We're just trying to do our jobs and get on base and produce."

The Mets do not want to overexpose the inexperienced Tejada, 20, and have been starting Cora, 34, against tougher pitchers. Cora is happy to be a part of the mix, but the consequences of his limited playing time are seen in moments such as the groundout Saturday.

"It's hard, man. People take it for granted, to be honest," Cora said about staying fresh as a part-time infielder. "Timing is everything . . . You can take all the BP you want, but when you go out there, there's movement [on pitches]. The guys are executing pitches. They're not throwing you cookies so you can hit it hard."

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