MIAMI - With his team facing another late night flight and early morning arrival, Mets manager Terry Collins relaxed the dress code.
He offered players the choice of ditching their coats and ties for bright Hawaiian shirts, all as part of a theme flight to help lighten the mood.
But after the Mets' 7-3 loss to the Marlins Wednesday night, the bright colors of Tommy Bahama's worst work clashed with the muted tones in a clubhouse that would soon face a new reality.
After a 2-4 road trip, and their first consecutive series losses of the season, the Mets (15-7) will report to Citi Field on Thursday without the distinction of owning the best record in baseball.
That honor now belongs to the Cardinals (14-6) and a .700 winning percentage.
"It's the big leagues," Collins said. "You've got to just keep going. You can't get down because you're 2-4 on a road trip. You pick yourself up and go home."
The Mets' bullpen had emerged as a strength despite being thinned out by a wave of injuries. But for the second straight night, shaky relief work allowed one to let one get away.
This time, it was lefty Alex Torres, who surrendered a three-run shot in the eighth to the aging legend Ichiro Suzuki that broke open a one-run game.
"They had a rough series," Collins said of the bullpen, which is still missing Vic Black, Bobby Parnell and Jerry Blevins.
Until the latter stages, the Mets found themselves in a fight against the Marlins, winners of seven of their last eight games.
On a night in which the Mets made solid contact but came away with little to show for it, the slumping Michael Cuddyer blasted a two-run homer.
But Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton knocked in three runs, including a two-run shot of his own, taking advantage of the fact that the Mets pitched to him throughout the series.
The Marlins spoiled Bartolo Colon's bid for the first 5-0 start of his career. Colon (4-1) allowed four runs in 62/3 innings for his first loss of the season.
"It was too bad that I couldn't pick them up," said Colon, who was burned by shaky defense in the first, when the Mets failed to turn a double play ahead of Stanton's game-tying two-run shot.
While the Mets crushed the ball with no results, the Marlins pushed ahead with a bit of luck. Stanton tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth on an infield hit against the shift.
The Marlins pushed ahead 4-3 in the seventh when Adeiny Hechavarria bounced a double over third baseman Eric Campbell that barely stayed fair. He later scored on Dee Gordon's sacrifice fly. Ichiro added an exclamation point later with his first homer as a Marlin.
Now, after a roaring start and an 11-game winning streak, these Mets they have dropped consecutive series for the first time this season and return home after a losing road trip.
They oppose the Nationals, who arrive for a four-game series looking revived after scoring 26 runs in two games against the Braves.
The Mets will be tested, though the veteran Cuddyer isn't worried.
"We played well here," he said. "We just got beat. You play 162 games and that's going to happen. So, no, there's no concern. We're excited to get back home."
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