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Mets haven't been the aces of bases this season

Daniel Murphy gets caught in a double play

Daniel Murphy gets caught in a double play at third base on a fly ball by Chris Young to left fielder Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies to end the first inning of a game at Coors Field on May 4, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Doug Pensinger

Few teams in baseball live on the edge as often as the Mets.

Entering Tuesday night, they had already played 28 games this season that were decided by just one run, the fourth highest total in the majors. But they've lost 18 of those nail-biters, translating to a .357 winning percentage, the third lowest in all of baseball.

The near-misses only amplify every little misstep, perhaps nowhere more than on the base paths, where the Mets have been guilty of committing their fair share of brain freezes.

"No doubt, no question," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When you're in tight games -- and you make baserunning mistakes -- they're now larger."

In reality, the Mets remain one of the better baserunning teams in the National League. When possible, they take the extra base 42 percent of the time according to Baseball Reference, a rate that is above the league average. They have a 74 percent success rate when stealing bases, which is right in line with the league average.

And when excluding pickoffs, caught-stealings and force outs, the Mets have made only 24 outs on the bases, below the league average.

Yet it's not hard to tick off some of the Mets' worst rally-killing blunders of the season, which have been even more conspicuous with the offense struggling to generate runs. The mistakes include tried-and-true classics like making the third out at third base, and logic-defying feats of incompetence such as scoring just one run on a bases-loaded double off the fence, as they did against the Giants earlier this month.

Daniel Murphy personifies this conflicting reality. This season, he has made the last out at third base by:

Getting caught stealing with David Wright at the plate.

Bluffing to the plate in hopes of drawing an errant throw on a fly-ball to left, only to get caught when the throw was cut off.

Rounding third base on a grounder and straying too far from the bag, only to have a fielder throw behind him for the out.

But despite a lack of natural speed, Murphy has also taken the extra base at a 56 percent clip, one of the best rates on the team. And he's stolen eight bases in 11 tries.

"His intentions are outstanding," said Collins, who has watched Murphy run into five outs made on the base paths, the most on the team.

Wright, who was recently caught trying to stretch a single into a double, believes the miscues have stemmed from compensating for a punchless lineup.

"Offensively, it's not like we're going to out-slug a lot of teams, so we have to do the smaller things correctly, and one of those is running the bases," Wright said. "We have to be aggressive, we have to take the extra base, we have to put pressure on the defense because, quite frankly, we don't have a lot of guys that can turn the game around with a swing of the bat."

The Mets score 3.87 runs per game, far from the worst mark in the league, though still well below average. They've been prone to long dry spells because they ranked in the bottom three in homers (53), average (.235), slugging (.352) and on-base plus slugging (.664).

Too often, they have found themselves on the losing end of close games, just one big hit short of changing the result. Until those hits start to fall, the Mets hope to bridge the gap on the bases. It's a strategy that worked out well for them last season, when they led the league by taking the extra base 46 percent of the time.

"We have to push the issue, we have to make sure we take that extra base, steal some bases, and be smart on the base paths and not run ourselves into a lot of outs," Wright said. "That's important for us moving forward -- and it has been all year."

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