SAN DIEGO - For Mets manager Terry Collins, much of the summer has been devoted to solving a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. Only during the Mets' recent surge has the lineup shown stability.
"When things are going good, you really don't worry about much," he said Saturday. "You ride the ride."
Lately, that ride has been so smooth, it might have been easy to forget about all the bumps the Mets have endured along the way. But the Padres provided a reminder that there will be setbacks. Behind an outstanding performance by righthander Tyson Ross Saturday night, they handed the Mets a humbling 6-0 defeat.
The Mets (46-51) came in as winners of four straight and eight of nine. Another victory would have secured the club's first five-game winning streak since May 2013.
But Ross continued his breakout season, holding the Mets to four hits in seven innings.
"He's got great stuff," Collins said. "Great sink, and of course, that great slider."
Meanwhile, the Mets were unable to contain one of the most punchless offenses in recent history.
The Padres (42-55) trail all of baseball in average (.214), on-base percentage (.273) and slugging (.332). And in each case, they trail by a wide margin.
They came into Saturday night's game scoring only 2.95 runs per game, a figure that seems more in line for baseball in 1914, not 2014. The Cardinals are second to last at 3.74 runs per game.
History, however, often is a poor predictor of what might happen on any given day.
The All-Star break forced Mets righthander Dillon Gee to wait 10 days between starts. To combat that period of inactivity, he spent the hiatus in San Diego, where he was able to throw a bullpen session.
But that effort paid few dividends against the Padres, who for only the third time this season hit three homers in a game. Two of them came off Gee, who allowed four runs in five innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list.
Gee refused to use the layoff as an excuse. "I felt good every day leading up to this," he said. "I just lost it there for a while . . . I couldn't locate."
In the second, Yasmani Grandal hit a towering homer to right-center. It was estimated to have traveled 440 feet, the longest at cavernous Petco Park this year.
The Padres added two more runs in the third with the help of a throwing error by leftfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis on Chase Headley's RBI single. No one was at third to take the throw, and Alexi Amarista also scored on the play.
Will Venable added a solo shot in the fourth against Gee, who struck out eight and walked none. With the Mets trailing 4-0 in the sixth, Collins felt compelled to pinch hit for Gee after only 80 pitches.
Seth Smith hit a solo shot off Carlos Torres in the sixth that pushed the lead to 5-0. It was his 11th homer.
As the Padres tacked on runs, the Mets stalled against Ross, one of the Padres' representatives at the All-Star Game. He held the Mets hitless until the fifth, when Travis d'Arnaud's leadoff roller down the third-base line bounced off the bag.
Even then, the Mets didn't mount a serious threat until the seventh, when they loaded the bases with two outs for Ruben Tejada, who swung over the top of a slider for strike three.