ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - After the euphoria of the last homestand, after a seven-game winning streak, it's hardly a shock for the Mets to lose a couple of games.
That doesn't mean they have to be happy about it. Especially Sunday, after they frittered away an early three-run lead for the second straight day and fell to the plucky Rays, 4-3, on rookie Richie Shaffer's tiebreaking home run off Bartolo Colon in the seventh inning.
"We could have had a couple of games," manager Terry Collins said. "We didn't get 'em . . . The last two nights, we didn't pitch like we normally have. We'll get ready and go home and have a good homestand."
That's the silver lining: The Mets headed back to New York with the same 1 1/2-game lead in the NL East that they had when they arrived at Tropicana Field. That's because the Nationals also lost two of three to Colorado this weekend, including Sunday's 6-4 decision, and now Washington faces a 10-game western trip against the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies.
Adding to the feeling of optimism is that David Wright will play in his first minor-league rehab game Monday night in Port St. Lucie. It remains to be seen if and when the captain actually can help the Mets, but Monday night is an important first step.
"It was a good road trip," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Could have been a great road trip. But this team played us very well. They have a good club. We're happy to be 4-2 and looking forward to the homestand."
The Mets did lament two that felt as if they got away. On Saturday night, a subpar Noah Syndergaard watched a 3-0 lead disappear in an eventual 5-4 loss. On Sunday, Colon was given a 3-0 lead in the second inning but could not hold it.
The Mets scored three runs in the second on only one hit as the Rays' Chris Archer could not control his electric stuff. After striking out the side in the first, Archer walked the bases loaded and struck out two in a five-batter span in the second. He then fell behind designated hitter Curtis Granderson 3-and-0 before walking in a run on a 3-and-1 pitch.
Daniel Murphy, the seventh man to bat in the second, made it 3-0 by lining a two-run single to right -- the first ball put in play in the inning.
But the Mets' bats went cold after that, just as they did Saturday night. The Mets did not score after the second inning on either day. They struck out 15 times Saturday and 13 Sunday.
"That was pretty frustrating," Collins said. "Today, though, Chris got it going after the [second] inning and we had a tough time with him."
Archer gave up three runs and four hits in six innings. All four of his walks came in the second. He struck out 10.
The Rays got a run back in the third, thanks to a misplay by Kelly Johnson, who was making his fifth career appearance in rightfield. Johnson turned the wrong way on a drive to the warning track by Rene Rivera and watched it fall untouched for what was scored a double. It put runners on second and third, and John Jaso's sacrifice fly made it 3-1.
The Rays tied it at 3 in the fifth on Jaso's two-run double to the left-centerfield wall before Shaffer put Tampa Bay ahead with his second career homer in the seventh. Colon allowed four runs and nine hits in 62/3 innings. He did not walk or strike out a batter.