CHICAGO - Terry Collins crossed his arms and squeezed hard. His face turned red. Before answering each question, he paused, as if to self-enforce a seven-second delay.
The Mets' manager has grown tired of explanations.
Why did shortstop Wilmer Flores airmail another throw? Why did catcher Anthony Recker fail to squeeze a slider that got away from him? Were the mistakes mental? Physical? Some combination of both?
"I didn't ask," Collins said after both plays led to the Mets' 6-5 loss to the Cubs Thursday. "Sometimes it doesn't matter."
What matters is this: The Mets' fourth straight loss to the Cubs meant that for the first time this season, they were swept in a series. And they did it in a way that tested their capacity for patience.
The Mets squandered a four-run lead. In the fifth, Flores' wide throw on a tough play opened the door for the tying rally. In the seventh, Recker's passed ball let the go-ahead run score.
"Some days you get beat and you tip your hat," said Collins, who wasn't in the mood for explanations. "And other days you just make enough mistakes to lose games. Those are the ones that get you."
Indeed, the Mets did just enough to erase a rare offensive outburst: a pair of homers by Recker, a solo shot by Flores and a two-run single by John Mayberry Jr. that snapped an 0-for-21 skid and gave the Mets a 5-1 lead that they eventually gave away.
Jonathon Niese (3-3) allowed six runs (four earned) and six hits in 61 /3 innings. He struck out two, walked one and lost his rhythm after Flores' error in the fifth.
Flores invited even more scrutiny when he went into the hole to backhand Addison Russell's grounder, planted his feet and made an inaccurate throw that pulled Lucas Duda off the bag.
It wasn't an easy play, though it was one that a seasoned shortstop likely would have made. The Cubs scored twice more after the miscue.
"Any time you make an error, you just hope that nothing else happens," Flores said. "It did."
It was Recker's passed ball in the seventh that proved most costly. With Dexter Fowler on third and two outs, he failed to glove a nasty slider by Hansel Robles. The ball bounced off his mitt and rolled toward the first-base dugout, allowing Fowler to score the go-ahead run.
"It's frustrating to be a part of letting the winning run cross the plate on a play that obviously should have been made and usually is made," said Recker, who had called for a slider and muffed the pitch just the same.
Soon, for the fourth straight day, a white flag with a blue "W" flew over the iconic centerfield scoreboard at Wrigley Field.
While the Mets have taken some lumps since reeling off 11 straight wins, they had yet to absorb a kick to the gut quite like this one.
Though still in first place in the NL East, the Mets (20-15) fell to 2-5 on their road trip and 7-12 since the winning streak.
They sent Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey to the mound in the first three games of the series, and in the finale, they matched a season high with three homers. All Collins got for it was questions that had no easy answers.
"We're not happy with the way we played here," he said. "But what can we do about it except get ready for tomorrow and have a good homestand."