NEW YORK -- If the Mets are to storm back into the postseason picture, the way they did against admittedly shorter odds in 2015 and '16, they need to be something close to perfect down the stretch.
Lately, they have been anything but, undermining themselves with mistake after mistake after defensive mistake. Officially, the Mets committed three errors in their 5-0 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday night. Unofficially, they made a handful of other miscues, their sum total keeping victory well out of reach.
T.J. Rivera committed two errors, leading to multiple unearned runs. Jose Reyes misplayed a Kolten Wong infield hit and bobbled a double-play ball with the opposing pitcher running. Yoenis Cespedes allowed a relatively routine fly, which had a Statcast-estimated 89-percent catch probability, to sail over his head for an RBI double.
All of that occurred in the first two innings, before the sun even set at Citi Field.
"It was kind of ugly for us in the beginning," Reyes said.
Things didn't improve much by the end. In the seventh, Lucas Duda dropped a foul popup, prolonging Yadier Molina's at-bat long enough for the Cardinals catcher to rap out an RBI single. All told, the Mets committed three errors and allowed three unearned runs, allowing the Cardinals to breeze through a game in which starting pitcher Michael Wacha was at his dominant best.
"You've got to make those plays," manager Terry Collins said. "This is the Major Leagues and we've got to make plays."
Even before tacking Tuesday's numbers onto their ledger, the Mets ranked last in all of baseball with -27 Defensive Runs Saved by the left side of their infield, which recently has been Reyes' and Rivera's domain. The Majors' next worst team, the Phillies, had compiled -12 DRS at third base and shortstop.
Earlier this year, the Mets moved Reyes to short specifically because of his glove, upsetting Asdrubal Cabrera in the process. They've never considered Rivera a plus defender, but have started him regularly at third on the promise of his bat.
None of that is unique to the Mets under general manager Sandy Alderson, who has built his teams around raw hitting ability, with defense a bit of an afterthought. In the past, New York's power pitching has covered up many of the club's mistakes. But as the Mets' pitchers continue to struggle this season, their defensive issues have become plain to see.
"To be honest, it's tough," catcher Rene Rivera said. "But we're here for a reason. We're Major League players. So we have to continue to play hard."
Earlier Tuesday, Collins insisted he has little fear that Duda, Cabrera and other players might become distracted by their status as trade chips. He believes Tuesday's errors were physical, the type of things that could happen to anyone. Reyes said his bobble at second base was a play he should make "99.9 percent of the time."
Why the 0.01 percent keeps surfacing for Reyes and other Mets is anyone's guess -- likely a cocktail of age, ability and circumstance. But for a team spiraling toward the National League East's basement, it's an issue from which the Mets have been consistently unable to recover.
"I don't know what they think, what goes on in their mind," Collins said. "All I can tell you is what my approach has been to them, and that is you can't worry about if your name's mentioned or if it's not mentioned or anything else. You can't worry about possible callups. You can't worry about where you're going to be tomorrow. You're here today. You've got to worry about today."