DENVER -- Unlike at Citi Field, where the air can often be swampy thick, the atmosphere at Coors Field is noticeably thin, noticeably dry. A row of purple seats in the upper deck designates the altitude, officially one mile above sea level. Despite the installation of a humidor in 2002, balls fly here; Coors Field led the Majors last season in both runs per game and homers per game.
So the Mets could do little Monday except shake their heads after Chris Iannetta beat Chris Capuano with a wall-scraping line-drive homer in the seventh. The final score at Coors Field was Rockies 2, Mets 1, though it was the park that beat them as much as the opponent.
"It doesn't matter what the score is," catcher Josh Thole said of Denver. "Anything can change at any time."
Before the game, the Mets sat in the visiting clubhouse and talked at length of the so-called Coors Effect, making sluggers out of line-drive hitters since 1993. And mostly, Capuano managed to combat it, keeping the Rockies scoreless until Dexter Fowler singled home Iannetta with one out in the fifth.
But two innings later, Capuano hung an 81-mph slider to Iannetta, who hooked it around the left-field foul pole on a low line drive.
"It was a hanging breaking ball," Capuano said. "I was trying to throw a backdoor breaking ball there, and it just kind of stayed up in the middle of the plate, right into his swing."
Asked if he was surprised that the ball cleared the wall, Mets manager Terry Collins answered simply: "Not here."
It was Collins who, before the game, talked at length of his days as a coach in the Pacific Coast League, a Triple-A circuit with many parks well above sea level -- altitudes where the ball flies farther and the scores tend to be crooked. Specifically, Collins spoke of being prudent on the basepaths, of being careful not to kill rallies with baserunning mistakes.
But after Willie Harris buoyed the Mets with a leadoff pinch-hit single in the ninth, he was gunned down attempting to steal second base.
"I was trying to play the game," Harris said. "I was just trying to get in scoring position for those guys. When you sit on the bench for a while, you want to do something to help the team. I guess I picked a bad spot."
And so the Mets lost their second straight game overall and their fifth straight to the Rockies, following a four-game sweep in New York last month.
This loss proved equally as frustrating as the ones back home, in an entirely different way. Though Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin walked a career-high six batters in six innings, the Mets mustered merely one run -- and that on Jason Bay's high infield chopper in the sixth. Twice they left the bases loaded and twice they left two men on base, stranding 10 in total. With runners in scoring position, the Mets finished 0-for-7.
It was frustrating also for Capuano, who overcame several jams of his own but could not help himself with the bat. Three times Capuano struck out against Chacin, including a key whiff with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth.
"We work on that stuff," Capuano said. "As a pitching staff, we don't want to be an automatic out up there. When we've got runners on base with a chance to help ourselves, we should at least be able to put the ball in play."
Because once the ball is in play, Collins stressed before the game, anything can happen.
For the Mets, who have grown accustomed to seeing booming blasts die on the warning track at Citi Field, that's what made Monday's loss most maddening. In most other parks -- perhaps in all other parks -- Iannetta's ball would have bounced off the wall for a one-out double. Few Mets thought his shot had a chance to leave the yard, save for the ones who have grown accustomed to seeing such things.
"I've seen it happen a bunch," said Mets reliever Taylor Buchholz, who spent three seasons with the Rockies and spent time pitching at an even higher altitude, at Triple-A Colorado Springs. "Those balls sneak out here. It's part of pitching at Coors."
And part of hitting at Coors. The Mets couldn't take advantage of it Monday, making 20 of their 27 outs either on the ground, on the basepaths or in the batter's box.
The Rockies, who are used to this sort of thing, most certainly could.
"I was hoping to get a double out of it," Iannetta said. "I'll take a homer, though."