As the innings passed and the Mets' bats remained quiet in a 6-2 loss to the Braves Tuesday night at Citi Field, the attention of a crowd of 26,227 inevitably drifted to the out-of-town scoreboard high atop the leftfield stands. The news there gave comfort to Mets fans because a Nationals loss to the Orioles maintained the Mets' NL East lead at 61/2 games while reducing their magic number to clinch the division to six.
Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, the Mets had one golden opportunity to piece together another late-game comeback when they loaded the bases with one out. Pinch-hitter Michael Cuddyer got one run home with a sacrifice fly, but Wilmer Flores grounded out to end the threat.
In the ninth, reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a two-run double to pinch-hitter Adonis Garcia, putting the game out of reach. At least another page came off the calendar.
Asked if the Nationals' loss salvaged a positive outcome, Terry Collins said, "No, we've got to play better. We've played great at home all year, and all of a sudden, we've hit a wall. We've got to swing the bats better. We're a better offensive team than we've [shown] this homestand."
Coming off an 8-2 road trip with sweeps in Washington and Atlanta, Collins figured the Mets were primed to keep rolling at home. But they went 1-2 against the Yanks and Miami and are 1-1 against the Braves with the rubber game Wednesday.
"I'm shocked," Collins said about the Mets' slide in run production at home. "We were swinging great. Coming home with the lead we had, nobody needs to be uptight. For me, it looks like we're tight."
Logan Verrett started the game for the Mets in place of Jacob deGrom, who skipped a turn in the rotation for much-needed rest. Verrett's first two starts were in place of Matt Harvey, and he went 1-0 with a sterling 1.38 ERA in those games.
David Wright staked Verrett to a 1-0 lead with a laser shot over the fence in center in the first inning. But Braves second baseman Jace Peterson led off the fifth with a home run to right to tie the game at 1.
Michael Bourn then reached base on a one-out infield single and was sacrificed to second by pitcher Matt Wisler (6-8). Collins chose to walk Nick Markakis intentionally to set up the force play, but the strategy backfired when Hector Olivera delivered a three-run homer for a 4-1 lead.
That was the end for Verrett, who was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. "Really, the one pitch in the fifth to Olivera sours this outing," Verrett said.
Before the bases-loaded situation in the eighth, the Mets had a couple other opportunities, but after doubles in the first and sixth by Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes struck out and flied out, and Lucas Duda hit an infield popup and flied out.
Wright took issue with his manager about the level of tension with which the Mets have been gripping their bats on this homestand. "No, I don't think we're tight," Wright said. "There's going to be games when you get outplayed. We need to do a better job of winning series at home. It seems like the last couple series have gotten away from us.
"It's not making excuses. The Yankees played well against us, and Miami had won five straight series coming in here. I don't sense anybody is tight in here. It's playoff baseball. There's going to be a little pressure. We're trying to make a push. But I don't sense it carrying over to the field."