SAN FRANCISCO -- Sandy Alderson described the "different kind of persona" exuded by the Mets as he talked before Sunday night's game against the Giants.
With the All-Star break only a few hours away, the Mets already had guaranteed a winning first-half record. But Alderson thinks something more far-reaching has been established in the last 31/2 months, given the Mets' injuries and 5-13 start. "Being over .500 to this point is not something we're happy with," he said. "But having achieved that as a floor, if you will, that's a positive. So it's not where we want to settle, but at the same time, I think it's a positive."
But the first half ended on a negative for the Mets, who squandered numerous chances against Matt Cain in Sunday night's 4-2 loss to the Giants. Mike Pelfrey gave up only two runs in six innings, but the Mets did little to support him, going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
"I thought we had Cain on the ropes several times and he got out of it, which those guys do," Terry Collins said. "You can't let them have the lead. You've got to battle your way and keep yourself in the ballgame. We didn't do that."
Afterward, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes planned to hop a ride to Phoenix with the Giants' All-Star contingent, which includes manager Bruce Bochy and five players. When everyone returns from the break, there's no telling how much longer this Mets group will stay together.
At 46-45, the Mets are 11 games behind the division-leading Phillies and 7½ behind the Braves in the wild-card race. With the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline looming, Alderson's cell phone is bound to start getting busier.
"It's unfortunate, but you have the idea that something is going to happen," Pelfrey said. "You wish everybody could stay together, but that's the business side of it. I don't think we're going to have the same guys we have here now."
The Mets already have used a revolving-door roster to this point. Just look at who supplied their meager offense Sunday night. Nick Evans had a pinch-hit homer off Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth and Justin Turner had an RBI double with two outs in the ninth for his fourth hit of the game. But when Beltran struck out against Brian Wilson to end it, the Mets had left 10 men on base in dropping two of three to the defending world champions.
In the third inning, one out after Andres Torres smacked a leadoff double, Pablo Sandoval drilled a double high off the leftfield wall to put the Giants ahead. Nate Schierholtz then punched a ground ball that barely squeezed through the middle of the infield for an RBI single.
After Pelfrey's exit, Collins brought in Jonathon Niese for his first-ever relief appearance, and the move backfired. Niese was touched for an infield hit by Mike Fontenot that Lucas Duda should have backhanded cleanly. One out later, Schierholtz doubled. D.J. Carrasco then served up RBI singles to Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand.
Duda wasn't charged with an error, but Angel Pagan and Daniel Murphy each committed one. It's a problem that must be addressed. "We have not played very well defensively on this road trip; therefore, we suffered because of it a little bit," Collins said. "Certainly we got to shore that up, sure."
The Mets closed the first half with four of their last five series against division-leading teams -- the Rangers, Tigers, Yankees and Giants -- and went 6-6 during that stretch. They open the second half by hosting the Phillies at Citi Field on Friday, so it doesn't get any easier.
The pre-Alderson Mets, at least since the 2006 march to Game 7 of the NLCS, were known for September collapses and midseason swoons. When the Omar Minaya-Jerry Manuel regime was replaced last year, Alderson was expected to bring a culture change as well, and the GM suggested that some of that "negativity" has been squashed.
"I think the perception is different," Alderson said. "I hope the reality is different too. But an important thing is the perception is different, and often you don't move perception without changing reality. So I think both things have changed somewhat."