Constant losing is taking a heavy toll on the Mets, and that was evident as they labored into the seventh against Cubs starter Scott Feldman on Saturday afternoon at Citi Field. They trailed only 2-1, but it felt worse because the scoreboard also said they had only two hits.
"You look up in the [seventh] inning, and you've got two stinking hits. Two!" manager Terry Collins said incredulously. "I mean, those are issues."
For a team hitting .199 and averaging 2.5 runs over its past 28 home games, the Mets' anemic offense is an unrelenting issue. So even though they could tie the game with one swing of the bat, the decision of power-hitting Lucas Duda to lay down a bunt with no one on base against a Cubs defense shifted to the right side of the infield was a reflection of the Mets' desperation.
Unfortunately for Duda, the ball stopped in front of the plate instead of rolling to the open third-base side, and he was thrown out easily. Feldman then recorded his 12th straight out to end the inning, and the Cubs tacked on three runs in the eighth on their way to a 5-2 victory.
It was the Mets' 10th loss in 12 games since they swept four games from the Yankees, and it dropped them a season-low 15 games below .500. Collins admitted he didn't necessarily agree with Duda's decision, but he couldn't fault him for trying to make something happen for a team that is dead in the water.
"Because it failed, it looks bad," Collins said. "But we're not exactly hitting the ball all over the ballpark. Lucas is trying to get on, trying to make something happen. I understand it completely . . . At least, there was a thought process involved."
Duda backed up Collins' interpretation, saying: "Yeah, there's two sides, right? We're down one. You want me to try to hit one out, but off of Feldman, I wasn't seeing the ball real well today. He got me to pop up twice . . . Lately, we haven't been swinging the bat well, especially myself. So I tried to lay one down, and it didn't work out."
Mets starter Jon Niese struggled with his command from the start and got burned in the fourth inning when he walked Anthony Rizzo and former Met Scott Hairston to start the inning. He got two outs and would have been out of the inning had first baseman Daniel Murphy gotten the tag on Rizzo after a pickoff throw from catcher Anthony Recker caught him off base. But Hairston avoided Murphy's diving tag, and both runners scored when Feldman later singled for a 2-0 lead.
The Mets responded in the fourth when Murphy doubled off the base of the wall in leftfield and David Wright followed with a double off the orange line at the top of the wall in right centerfield to cut the deficit to 2-1.
But Feldman (6-5), who struck out six and walked one, was lifted for a pinch hitter in the Cubs' three-run eighth. Mets reliever Brandon Lyon walked in one run and gave up a bases-loaded double to Starlin Castro that drove in the other two.
Jordany Valdespin drove in the Mets' last run with a single in the eighth, but the rally ended when Murphy and Wright were retired with two runners in scoring position. Wright began with a walk and double in his first two at-bats to extend his on-base streak to nine straight appearances, tying his career high. But his RBI double just missed being a homer, and a deep shot in the sixth died at the wall in left.
"It's 800 feet of fly balls," Wright said, "and not much to show for it."