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Mets fall as bats, defense can't pick up Matz

Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- The Mets got an excellent pitching performance from lefty Steven Matz on Sunday, but couldn't back it up with any semblance of offense as a pair of mental mistakes cost New York in a 2-0 loss to the Cubs at Citi Field.

Two days after manager Mickey Callaway said he called a team meeting because "we're not playing the game the right way," it's possible the message has yet to sink in.

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NEW YORK -- The Mets got an excellent pitching performance from lefty Steven Matz on Sunday, but couldn't back it up with any semblance of offense as a pair of mental mistakes cost New York in a 2-0 loss to the Cubs at Citi Field.

Two days after manager Mickey Callaway said he called a team meeting because "we're not playing the game the right way," it's possible the message has yet to sink in.

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"It's frustrating. You're giving them the game instead of them winning the game from you," Callaway said. "That's always hard to accept. If you do things the right way and get beat, you don't feel great because you lost, but you accept it and move on."

The Mets managed only three hits against Cubs lefty Jon Lester and three relievers as Chicago completed a four-game sweep in which New York scored a total of six runs. The Mets have lost nine of 11 and are 10-21 since May 1, having scored two runs or less 15 times in that time frame. 

Lester and Matz battled through six scoreless innings until the Cubs broke through for a pair of runs in the seventh. After Javier Baez and Willson Contreras started the frame with singles to put runners on the corners, Matz didn't hold Baez at third base and, on a pickoff throw to first, Baez stole home with a head-first slide in front of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez's throw.

Video: CHC@NYM: Baez turns on the jets to steal home

"It really doesn't have anything to do with the third baseman or the pitcher holding a runner at third," Callaway said. "It really has to do with how hard he throws the ball over to first on his [pickoff throws]. ... He's actually throwing harder than he has in the past. It's still pretty slow and they took advantage of that."

Matz said that with a runner on third, "I am not trying to snap a throw [to first] and throw it away," but agreed that there needed to be more velocity on the throw he made.

"It just caught me off guard," he added. "In the future I'll be more mindful of the throw. I wasn't thinking about it."

Video: CHC@NYM: Matz, Callaway discuss strong outing in loss

With two runners in scoring position and one out, the Mets didn't execute properly on a flare behind second base. Rookie second baseman Luis Guillorme called off right fielder Jay Bruce to make the catch going away from the infield instead of letting Bruce make the grab with the infield in front of him. Contreras seized on that and tagged up to score for the rare sacrifice fly hit to a second baseman. 

Bruce said that he believed Guillorme was under the ball, no longer drifting backward and in a position to make a throw home. Guillorme said he was just trying to make a play. Callaway, however, explained that "the guy doesn't even try to run if Bruce catches it." Still, it seems Guillorme didn't see it that way.

"It's a close game -- he probably would have gone [home] whether I got it or he got it," Guillorme said. 

Video: CHC@NYM: Zobrist plates Contreras on shallow sac fly

Matz ended up allowing just those two runs over seven innings. He let up five hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Even as the Mets were showing little in the way of lumber in the early going against Lester, they were flashing quite a bit of leather. The Mets made three excellent plays in the field during the first five innings.

With a runner at third and one out in the third inning, Matz fielded Lester's squeeze bunt attempt and shoveled the ball to catcher Kevin Plawecki to get the out at home.

Video: CHC@NYM: Matz nabs Russell at the plate in the 3rd

In the fifth with the Cubs' leadoff runner aboard, shortstop Amed Rosario made an athletic shovel pass backward on a ground ball to get a forceout at second. On the next at-bat, Matz snared a Tommy La Stella smash and turned it into a 1-6-3 double play. 

Video: CHC@NYM: Rosario makes a nifty flip for the forceout

But few would remember those plays after the way the seventh inning played out.

"You practice it all the time. You stress it all the time. And it just doesn't happen," Callaway said. "The way things have been going, guys have a lot of pressure on themselves and when that pressure takes over, you can't think in that moment. Maybe that's affecting us overall. ... We have to do some things to get over that and make sure we're focused every second of the day that we are out there."

SOUND SMART
The Mets' starting pitchers have a 2.48 ERA over the past 16 games, but the team is 5-11 in those contests.

HE SAID IT
"Let's face it -- this is a tough place to play. New York is tough on players. It's tough on everybody. If they were in Cleveland or somewhere else, maybe they wouldn't feel that pressure, but you are playing in New York. We do play in New York. We have passionate fans that want to see a good ballclub out there, so we have to do some things to get over that and make sure we're focused." -- Callaway

UP NEXT
Jason Vargas' 2-4 career record against Baltimore doesn't tell the whole story of the southpaw's history with the Orioles. Vargas brings a career 2.23 ERA and a pair of complete games vs. the O's into Tuesday's series opener against Baltimore, with first pitch slated for 7:10 p.m. ET. Righty Alex Cobb gets the ball for the Orioles.

Roger Rubin is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.

New York Mets