Brief hope for Mets extinguished on wild pitch
Ankiel's homer ties it before Marcum, Rice run into trouble in seventh
ST. LOUIS -- It is something different almost every night. Whether a defensive misplay or a baserunning blunder or a ball in the dirt or a frozen offense, the Mets have displayed ample creativity in losing 14 of their last 18 games.
Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Cardinals only continued the trend. Finally the beneficiaries of an efficient starting pitching performance, the Mets allowed an extra run when David Wright dropped the ball in an early rundown, and another on Scott Rice's wild pitch in the seventh.
By the ninth, they had sealed their sixth straight defeat.
"The game is very cruel sometimes," Wright said. "Right now, we're experiencing some of the cruelness of it."
Rick Ankiel gave temporary hope in the top of the seventh, tying the game with his first homer in a Mets uniform. But after starter Shaun Marcum put runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Rice -- who forgot to cover home plate on a key play in Monday's loss -- entered and immediately allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch.
With New York's offense still icy, that made a hard-luck loser out of Marcum, who gave the Mets 6 2/3 innings of three-run ball -- by far his best outing of the young season. Coming into the game, Marcum had yet to complete five innings in a start. But he said he took "no satisfaction" out of Wednesday's effort.
"It stinks to lose," Marcum said. "As far as throwing the ball for me, it's better. It's still not where I want to be. But the important thing is the team, and we lost. So it doesn't really matter what I did out on the mound."
Marcum was already grooving when Matt Holliday hit a seemingly innocuous one-out single in the fourth, keying a Cardinals rally. Jon Jay subsequently drove a double into the right-center field gap, where Mike Baxter corralled it and hit cutoff man Daniel Murphy on a hop.
Rather than attempt to gun down Holliday at the plate, Murphy fired to third base, surprising Jay, who made a half-hearted attempt to retreat back to second. But as Wright tagged him with one hand, the ball squirted out of his glove, allowing Jay to proceed safely to third. He jogged home a moment later on Tony Cruz's single.
"The ball just came flying out," Wright said. "It must have hit something hard on him and the ball just kicked out. It's just one of those crazy plays."
The Mets came into the night understanding that their offensive momentum would depend largely upon the right arm of Shelby Miller, a rookie captivating St. Louis in much the same way that Matt Harvey has enthralled New York. Fresh off a one-hit shutout of the Rockies, Miller established his presence with three strikeouts in the first.
The Mets settled into their offensive comfort zone after that, fouling off enough pitches to drive up Miller's pitch count. Nonetheless, they could not score until the rookie left the game.
It was a typical offensive performance from the Mets, who have averaged fewer than three runs per game over their last nine contests. Even Miller admitted that he "got away with some mistakes." And while the lack of offense has been an overarching problem, it has also exposed the Mets to other, odder, unfortunate situations.
Because they cannot score runs, the Mets have played countless close games throughout the month of May. With razor-thin margins, even small mistakes loom large. And the Mets have committed blunders of all shapes and sizes, from Wright's error to Rice's wild pitch and others. There was Ike Davis' throwing error in Tuesday's loss. Ankiel's dropped fly ball in Monday's defeat. Rice's failure to cover home plate that same inning.
"Outside of a few innings, we've been in every game in the last week," manager Terry Collins said. "We just can't finish it. We cannot get a big hit; we cannot get a big out. We cannot make a big play when we need to."
Taken individually, those are the types of mistakes that are bound to occur over the course of a season. Clumped together, they create a jumbo-sized cocktail of losing baseball.
"There's so little room for error the way we're struggling offensively," Wright said. "We're not playing good baseball -- that's easy to see. But it's a resilient group, and we know there's going to be tough times over the course of the season. We're going through one right now. It's not time to hold your heads down and mope around. We've got to find a way to compete."