NEW YORK -- By the ninth inning Wednesday, those who rained boos from the grandstand early in the evening had mostly departed, leaving a dejected knot of fans clustered in Citi Field's lower bowl. The Mets were about to drop an 8-2 game to the Braves, their fifth straight defeat
NEW YORK -- By the ninth inning Wednesday, those who rained boos from the grandstand early in the evening had mostly departed, leaving a dejected knot of fans clustered in Citi Field's lower bowl. The Mets were about to drop an 8-2 game to the Braves, their fifth straight defeat and their ninth in 10 games. Worse, they were about to fall four games under .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2014 season, their last without a postseason berth.
It may be too early to draw conclusions from the Mets' 8-12 start; all the team needs is one good week to reverse the narrative. But manager Terry Collins still called the Mets' disappointing April "surprising," a sentiment that players echoed throughout a quiet clubhouse.
"It's always surprising when you're not playing well and you're not winning ballgames with a group this talented," second baseman Neil Walker said. "Things just don't seem to be going our way right now."
The air, as Collins put it, "came out of the balloon" quickly on Wednesday, when starting pitcher Robert Gsellman coughed up five runs in the first. Facing Julio Teheran, who has gone 4-0 with a 0.91 ERA over his last seven starts against the Mets, the team never amounted much of a comeback. Walker, Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson finished a combined 0-for-11. The bullpen allowed two more runs. Smiling in his own postgame clubhouse, Teheran beamed that "I love pitching here."
The Mets gave him no reason not to grin.
"You're just shaking your head," Collins said. "This certainly is something we could not foresee, nor would you ever. You always know you're going to have a bad streak, but I thought we were way too good of an offensive club to struggle this bad."
This is not the first stretch of ineffectiveness for the Mets, even in the recent past. During one stretch in the middle of 2015, the Mets lost 10 of 14 games before temporarily righting themselves on a West Coast swing. Later that July, the Mets dropped another eight of 13, capped by a twice-rain-delayed game in which Jeurys Familia blew a critical save against the Padres.
The Mets lost four of their first five home games in 2016, prompting Collins to call the sixth game a must-win. Even after that, an early-August swoon sunk the Mets back below .500, where they stayed for much of the month.
But in neither year did the Mets ever drop four games below .500. It is by no means a mark that seals their fate; plenty of teams have recovered from worse starts to make the postseason. But considering the expectations for a club that looked unbeatable as recently as two weeks ago, it is a disheartening place to be in the last week of April.
"We're just kind of out of sync right now as a group," Walker said. "We know we're going to get back on track. It doesn't take a whole lot. With a veteran team like this, we know a couple good games and a couple clean games will get us back on track."
But a couple more ugly ones will have the Mets concerned. Asked at what point his early-season surprise might turn to genuine worry, Collins hesitated before answering.
"It could happen pretty soon," he said.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.