SAN FRANCISCO - The meltdown seemed inevitable. The mistakes had piled up, from failing to throw a baseball 90 feet to neglecting to look up while running the bases.
For eight innings, the Mets had gotten away with it, somehow clinging to a slim lead despite their laundry list of missteps. But against baseball's best team, those miscues would not go unpunished.
And in the ninth, the Mets came unraveled, falling to the Giants, 5-4, yet another twist of the knife on a tumultuous day.
It began with a team meeting designed to ease the sting of perhaps the Mets' worst stretch of baseball this season, a reminder that for all their troubles, they still were only five games out of first place. It ended with the demotion of Travis d'Arnaud, 25, considered the Mets' long-term answer at catcher.
"I've just got work to do," said a grim-faced d'Arnaud, who was hitting .180. "I've got find my swing. Just get it back."
By then, the Mets' dispirited clubhouse had nearly emptied out, a contingent that included a miffed David Wright. With his team in a slide, he tried to talk Terry Collins out of a pre-arranged day off in Sunday's series finale. The argument went nowhere. "I'm not sure if it's a benching or a day off at this point," said Wright, clearly displeased with the decision.
The Mets could hardly be blamed for their sour moods.
Recker found himself guilty on two fronts, making a costly error on the bases to kill a rally before his errant throw led to the Giants' walk-off win in the ninth.
With the Mets leading 4-3, Jenrry Mejia fanned Angel Pagan on a pitch in the dirt, but Recker's throw to first base pulled Lucas Duda off the bag, allowing Pagan to reach as the tying run.
"I didn't have to rush," Recker said. "But I probably rushed a little more than I should have."
Hunter Pence followed with a double down the leftfield line to tie it. Two batters later, Michael Morse sent a drive to deep right-center, driving in Pence with the winning run.
At one point, the Mets opened up a 4-1 lead against Tim Hudson, who entered the game with a league-best 1.75 ERA. But even then, they missed opportunities to do more damage.
In the third, the Mets had Hudson on the ropes, loading the bases with one out. Recker then drilled a ball that hit off the fence in rightfield. Off the bat, it appeared to be a two-run double. But Duda turned to tag at second, delaying Ruben Tejada, who took off on contact from first. Recker capped the misadventure by neglecting to look up at the runners ahead of him. Said Recker: "I was kind of watching the ball more than I should."
Tejada wound up caught between Duda at third and Recker at second. By the end of the play, only Chris Young had scored from third. Bartolo Colon struck out, forcing the Mets to watch another opportunity slip by.
In the sixth, Wright made an errant throw to second base that allowed the Giants to trim the Mets' lead to 4-3. Said Wright: "Just a stupid play by me."
Soon it would all catch up to the Mets. As the Giants streamed onto the field, several Mets lingered in the dugout, heads pressed against the top rail in a state of disbelief. They were equally stunned a few minutes later when d'Arnaud was sent to Las Vegas and replaced by Taylor Teagarden.
The organization had debated the move, with some advocating for d'Arnaud to remain with the Mets based on his defense. But the Mets ultimately decided that d'Arnaud needed to find his swing in the minors, away from the pressures of performing on the game's biggest stage.
At 11:26 p.m., when the team bus pulled out of AT&T Park, d'Arnaud wasn't on it.
"I've got work to do," he said.