Niese settles down, but Wright's error too much to overcome
NEW YORK -- After committing the key error in Tuesday's 4-0 loss to the Reds, smearing a Mets effort that needed to be perfect, David Wright consulted video to see "what I could have done differently."
"I really couldn't do much," Wright said. "I just wish the ball would have found the glove."
It did not, resulting in a critical blunder. That's all it takes these days for the Mets to suffer defeat -- one mistake. With a complete and utter lack of offense undermining them on a daily basis at Citi Field, the Mets cannot afford to be anything but perfect. But they have not been perfect, not even close, and so they continue to lose despite obvious improvements in their rotation and bullpen.
Tuesday's error came in the first inning, with two outs and the bases loaded, when Todd Frazier's ground ball scooted through the legs of Wright. Two men scored on the play, resulting in a three-run rally.
It was all the Reds would need. Starter Mike Leake pitched admirably for Cincinnati -- though it is difficult to determine how much of his success was of his own doing, and how much was thanks to the offensive shortcomings of a team with 40 runs scored in its last 15 games.
"You know the way things are going right now, that you have to play a near-perfect game to get a win," Wright said. "Obviously, that's not a good feeling, because you have to go out there and be able to make mistakes and still win games, and we're not there right now."
The Mets -- as they usually do -- did have their chances, most notably when John Buck doubled with Lucas Duda on first base and two outs in the fourth. But when Buck's hit ricocheted at an odd angle off the wall, third-base coach Tim Teufel held up Duda 90 feet from home. With two men in scoring position, Ike Davis then grounded weakly to first to end the threat.
Davis finished 0-for-3 against Leake, his college teammate, dropping to 1-for-36 over his last 10 games. After each of his outs, he walked back to the dugout amidst a growing chorus of boos.
"Of course," Davis said when asked if the crowd's reaction bothered him. "But what are you going to do?"
He went on to explain precisely what he must do: hit, at least with a modicum of consistency.
"Right now," Davis said, "it hasn't happened for a while."
The Citi Field crowd reserved a more pleasant ovation for starting pitcher Jon Niese, who rebounded from a rocky start to give the Mets six effective innings. Though Niese walked in a run, issued a total of three free passes and allowed the Reds to bat around in the first, Wright's error ensured that all three of the runs against him were unearned.
Striking out Leake with the bases loaded to evade further damage, Niese transformed into a different pitcher from there, whiffing seven over his final 5 1/3 innings.
"You've got to battle through it, and just got to keep the team in the game," he said. "Fortunately, I did keep the team in the game. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough."
That was because, like five of his eight teammates in the starting lineup, Niese finished hitless at the plate. Not since early April have the Mets enjoyed the luxury of several hot hitters all clicking at the same time; as a result, they are averaging 2.7 runs over their past 15 games, a stretch that dates back to the beginning of this month. Seven of the nine Mets in Tuesday's lineup arrived at Citi Field with batting averages on the wrong side of .240.
That translated into an easy day for Leake, who boasted after his seven shutout innings that "everything was seeming to work."
It also made wannabe perfectionists out of the Mets, who knew from the start that they could ill afford mistakes. Wright said it. Manager Terry Collins echoed it. Even Niese admitted that the lack of offense made pitching more difficult.
Right now, the Mets all know, they simply have no margin for error.
"We've got a handful of guys that are cold at the same time," Wright said. "Obviously, that's not ideal. For us to click, we've got to have at least a handful of guys that are swinging the bats well, and we don't have that."