Ronny Cedeno #13 of the New York Mets fields a...

Ronny Cedeno #13 of the New York Mets fields a ground ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (May 23, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Are the Mets a bad defensive team?

The stats say they are, especially without injured shortstop Ruben Tejada. The Mets, who begin a three-game interleague series against the Rays Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., were the fourth-worst defensive team in the majors going into Monday's action.

But here's the rub: The three teams with fielding percentages below the Mets' .978 -- Tampa Bay, Baltimore and San Francisco -- are all playoff contenders. As are the Mets, though their stock is dropping after they lost six of seven, including all three to the Yankees in the first go-round of the Subway Series.

"We've talked about this time and again," manager Terry Collins said Sunday after a 5-4 loss in the Bronx. "We aren't the kind of club that can make a lot of mistakes. When you give teams as good as the New York Yankees or anybody else in the big leagues multiple-out innings, they're gonna get ya. We saw it several times in the last two weeks where we haven't made plays and the next thing you know, it becomes a big inning."

The Yankees used late-inning errors by David Wright and Omar Quintanilla to stage a comeback from a 3-0 deficit before winning on Russell Martin's walk-off homer in the ninth.

So the errors didn't directly cause the Mets to lose. But they certainly were difficult to overcome.

"Errors, it's part of the game," said Wright, who bounced a throw on Andruw Jones' two-out grounder in the seventh. Vinny Rottino, starting at first base in place of Ike Davis, couldn't dig out the throw. Martin followed with a two-run homer off the top of the rightfield wall to bring the Yankees within a run.

"I got to the ball and just couldn't make a very good throw," Wright said. "That stuff happens. You hope our defense tries to pick our pitchers up and your pitcher can pick you up. In this case, Russell hit a good pitch. You try to go out there and make all the plays, but of course that's not going to happen. We've been playing pretty good defense all year."

That hasn't been the case at shortstop since Tejada went on the disabled list with a quadriceps strain May 7.

Tejada had a .982 fielding percentage. His backup, Ronny Cedeño, had a .960 percentage before he went down with a calf injury. Triple-A veteran Quintanilla has a .958 fielding percentage after making key errors Sunday and in Tuesday's 7-6, 12-inning loss to the Nationals.

(And we won't be overly critical of Jordany Valdespin, who has three errors in four games at short. He's not a shortstop.)

Particularly galling for the Mets was the slow bouncer by Derek Jeter in the eighth Sunday that Quintanilla charged and missed on the glove side. Jeter hustled to second as the ball died in the outfield. It was scored a single and an error.

"Of course it's playable," Collins said when the official scoring on the play was mentioned. "I don't care about that stuff. Scoring sometimes . . . Derek Jeter, give him a hit. Gets him closer to 4,000. It's a play you've got to make. 'O' can make it. He's a very, very good shortstop."

The Yankees went on to score two runs against Bobby Parnell, who gave up only one hard-hit ball in the inning.

"He got the ground balls," Collins said. "We just didn't make the plays."


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