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Rocky bullpen can't pick up stellar Oswalt

Righty pulled after 59 pitches; 'pen allows five earned runs in seventh
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Given their expectations at the start of this season, the Mets might have expected to ship off three or four players to the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., while the rest traveled home, enjoyed a few days of rest and reported back to work fresh for a second-half pennant push.

Such imaginings have been dead for weeks. The reality is that the Mets, who dropped a 6-1 game to the Nationals on Sunday to close out their first half, have fewer wins than any team in the National League. Some of those who traveled home are bound to be traded in the coming weeks, as the club decides which of them can be a part of their next winning team.

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NEW YORK -- Given their expectations at the start of this season, the Mets might have expected to ship off three or four players to the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., while the rest traveled home, enjoyed a few days of rest and reported back to work fresh for a second-half pennant push.

Such imaginings have been dead for weeks. The reality is that the Mets, who dropped a 6-1 game to the Nationals on Sunday to close out their first half, have fewer wins than any team in the National League. Some of those who traveled home are bound to be traded in the coming weeks, as the club decides which of them can be a part of their next winning team.

View Full Game Coverage

"We have to come out and play the game in a better way," manager Mickey Callaway said of the Mets' second half, which begins Friday against the Yankees.

Consider the rest of the season an audition, then, for players such as Corey Oswalt, who needed just 59 pitches to deliver five innings of one-run ball at Citi Field. Consider them important reps for folks like Michael Conforto, who scored the Mets' only run off Washington starter Jeremy Hellickson, and Anthony Swarzak, who walked the only two batters he faced to spark the Nationals' winning rally.

Two batters after Swarzak issued those free passes, pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy hit a two-run single off Tim Peterson to give the Nationals the lead, bloating Swarzak's ERA to 7.47. He is under contract for next season, and, like Oswalt and Conforto, is a sure bet to be part of the team.

Video: WSH@NYM: Murphy pulls a clutch 2-run single to right

The Mets' bullpen meltdown did not end there. Relieving Peterson, Jerry Blevins hit the first two batters he faced with pitches to force in a run. Trea Turner followed with a two-run single to provide the final margin, increasing New York's bullpen ERA to 4.73 -- fifth-worst in the Majors.

"Everybody needs a break," Swarzak said. "It's a long season and I think that from talking to other guys, everybody's looking forward to it. Nobody's giving up on each other. Everyone's going to continue to work hard. And we're going to have better results in the second half. We will."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
An abrupt end for Oswalt: After allowing his lone run on a second-inning fielder's choice, Oswalt grew stronger, retiring 10 straight Nationals to end his afternoon. Although Oswalt had thrown merely 59 pitches, Callaway chose to replace him with a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth, seeking to jumpstart an offense doing little against Hellickson. That rally stalled without a run, however, leaving the Mets to cobble together four innings from their bullpen.

Video: WSH@NYM: Oswalt on adjustments, secondary pitches

"Really, it just came down to us trying to score some runs," Callaway said. "Hits were hard to come by at that point, so we were just doing everything we could to score a run there."

SOUND SMART
The Mets' 55 losses are their highest total before the All-Star break since 1993, when they finished the first half 27-60. That team went on to become one of six in Mets history to lose 100-plus games.

FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera's right ring finger swelled up after he attempted to barehand an errant Swarzak pickoff throw during the seventh inning. Cabrera came out of the game an inning later and underwent X-rays, which were negative. He expects to be fine by the time the Mets open the second half.

Video: WSH@NYM: Cabrera hit in hand, leaves game in 8th

"I'm good," Cabrera said. "It's a little sore but it's not broken. That's good news for me."

HE SAID IT
"We've talked to them all. We've said, 'Go have a good break, come back and let's focus on the things we have to do to win." -- Callaway, on his message to the Mets

UP NEXT
Every Met but Jacob deGrom will enjoy a four-day rest this week, as players scatter for the All-Star break from Monday through Thursday. They'll return to New York for a three-game series starting Friday at Yankee Stadium. Noah Syndergaard, who just returned from a seven-week stay on the disabled list, will start the 7:05 p.m. ET opener.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets