ATLANTA - Hours before the Mets faced the Braves Wednesday night, general manager Sandy Alderson hinted that his team was better than their record would indicate.
He said it was yet to be determined whether the Mets would be sellers when the trade deadline rolls around at the end of the month.
"We kind of like our team," Alderson told CBSSports.com. "If you look at the run differential, we should be a .500 team. We're not. At the same time, it doesn't mean we should throw everyone overboard."
Yet, for all his talk about bad luck and close calls, the Mets suffered through their sordid version of Groundhog Day. In a 3-1 loss to the Braves, they fell behind after a brutal first inning, and their stagnant offense failed to put up much of a fight.
The result was predictable.
"It's the same scenario when you're going through what we're going through," manager Terry Collins said. "It's pretty much nightly."
On a seven-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Atlanta, the Mets won just once, with their offense averaging fewer than three runs per game. They have dropped seven of their last eight overall and have slipped to 11 games under .500 -- the furthest they've been from the break-even point all season.
"We've got to quit worrying about the standings," Collins said. "We've got to start winning. That takes care of anything. If you look at the standings, it isn't going to help."
The Mets are 10 games behind the first-place Braves, who tagged starter Jacob deGrom for three runs in a brutal 37-pitch first inning.
B.J. Upton led off with a single before deGrom issued his only two walks to load the bases. Still, he nearly got out of the inning with no damage. He struck out Justin Upton, the first of eight on the night. He got Jason Heyward to hit a weak fly to right. Only Chris Johnson stood in the way.
But after deGrom came within one strike of completing his great escape, he threw a changeup that Johnson recognized quickly. He lined a hard one-hopper just past Eric Campbell at third base. David Wright might have made the play had he not been sidelined by a shoulder injury. Instead, the ball skipped past Campbell's attempt at a backhanded pick, rolling to the fence.
The hit cleared the bases and put the Mets in a 3-0 hole against righthander Julio Teheran. "That was pretty frustrating," deGrom said.
With that, they were on their way to another close loss. The Mets have been outscored by only six runs this season (328-334). It's part of the reason Alderson said that whether the Mets begin shopping their better players will hinge on "what happens over the next 10 to 12 days."
But even if they decide to sell, Alderson said the Mets would be "hard-pressed" to trade lefthander Jonathon Niese, who likely would be the team's most attractive trade chip. Niese, 27, is 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA and has emerged as one of the NL's best starting pitchers. Second baseman Daniel Murphy also may draw interest.
But with Alderson still seeing some promise with the Mets, it's also possible that neither will be going anywhere.
"We're not happy with our record by any means," Alderson said. "We're thinking we have the potential to be better than our record."
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.