In the aftermath of Sunday's roster purge, one that cost starting first baseman Ike Davis his spot on the roster, the Mets reinforced the idea that his absence would be only temporary.
Manager Terry Collins refused to move Lucas Duda from leftfield to first base partly to avoid sending a "terrible message" about the move being permanent. Daniel Murphy, the second baseman turned first baseman, has no plans to buy a new mitt for what he believes will be a fill-in assignment.
Said Murphy: "I look forward to seeing him much sooner rather than later."
Yet, there was no getting around the new reality at Citi Field Tuesday night, though it produced the same old results.
The Cardinals beat the Mets, 9-2, with the help of seven unearned runs, five of them following a costly fifth-inning error by Murphy.
With Davis banished to Triple-A Las Vegas to work on his swing, the Mets could have simply moved the lumbering Lucas Duda out of leftfield and back to his natural position at first base, where he would be less of a hindrance. Instead, Collins moved Murphy over, partly to give Jordany Valdespin a chance at regular action at second base.
By the end, Collins found himself defending his decision.
"It's the right move to make right now, get Jordany in there," Collins said. "[Murphy] didn't make the play. It just happens."
Valdespin, who will get about a weeklong audition at second base, finished with two of the Mets' five hits.
"I think it's my time because they wanted to give me the chance to show that I can do my job and help the team," Valdespin said before the game. "The best I can do is come to the field and work hard every day, and help the team when the opportunity is there."
However, little else went right for the Mets, who fell to 13 games under .500. The club hasn't dropped this far from the break-even mark since 1993, when they finished with 103 losses and in seventh place in the NL East.
Shortstop Omar Quintanilla hit a solo shot in the first, when the Mets took a 2-0 lead off Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha. But the Cardinals surged ahead for good in the fifth when rightfielder Allen Craig blasted a three-run homer off Mets starter Jeremy Hefner, who is fighting for his job with top prospect Zack Wheeler expected to join the rotation Tuesday.
In six innings, Hefner (1-6, 4.11) allowed six runs and eight hits, though only one of those runs was earned thanks to Murphy's crucial error.
Though Murphy has experience at first base, he hadn't started there since last season, when he began his transition to second base. He hadn't taken grounders at first during the regular season. And only on Sunday did Collins discuss with Murphy the idea of filling in for Davis.
Collins insisted that moving Murphy wouldn't interfere with his development as a second baseman.
"This is about winning baseball games," said Murphy, who was willing to make the switch.
But in the fifth, Murphy opened the door for a five-run outburst by the Cardinals, who broke open what had been a 2-2 tie. Jon Jay's grounder bounced out of Murphy's mitt, a glove he borrowed from utilityman Justin Turner.
Murphy made matters worse by airmailing a throw to Hefner covering at first.
"Just a poor misplay on a ground ball," he said.
It was just the opening the Cardinals needed to deal the new-look Mets the same old result.
Said Murphy: "It didn't start very well."