Call Miguel Batista an eternal optimist.
Batista recently said he believes the Mets are the best team in baseball. And following yesterday's 8-5 loss to the Dodgers, in which Batista lasted a laborious three innings (81 pitches, four runs) in his first start since May 19, he doubled down on the best team theme.
"We are a great team," Batista said after the Mets lost their eighth in nine games. "We just have to play like it. That has been the problem. Washington is playing better baseball than us, but I don't believe they are better than us. Their bullpen has better numbers, but when one by one when you match every player, we're supposed to be better than them."
The Mets fell to .500 for the first time since May 4. The first-place Nationals are 61/2 games in front of the Mets, and they roughed up Batista in his previous appearance (two runs in two-thirds of an inning in relief Wednesday).
Mets pride aside, Batista did not give the club what it needed yesterday, especially one day after Johan Santana lasted just three innings and was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a sore ankle. Santana and Batista totaled 153 pitches in just six innings of work the last two games.
Batista is 1-2 in five starts and has a 4.82 ERA overall. In 21 innings spanning five starts, Batista has allowed 26 hits, 10 walks, 12 earned runs and struck out 20.
In his defense, Batista has thrown as much as two innings just three times since his May 19 start, when he was removed from that game after two scoreless innings with a sore back.
"It's going to take a little time to acclimate to throwing more than one inning again," Batista said. "I have to get better and do my job. It's hard when you haven't started a game in  days."
Batista went to a 2-and-0 count to start off Luis Cruz before throwing two consecutive strikes to draw sarcastic cheers from the crowd. Batista would strike out Cruz to end the inning, but 33 pitches did not set him up for a long outing.
"In the first inning, I lost my grip," Batista said. "That's what got me into trouble."
After a 14-pitch second inning, he allowed three runs and four hits in the third.
Batista said he would be ready to pitch on short rest Wednesday against the Nationals if asked.
"I've done it all the time," Batista said. "Now that I am throwing more, I should be fine."