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NYM@PHI: Duda belts a two-run homer in the eighth

PHILADELPHIA -- David Wright initiated the meeting with Mets manager Terry Collins following Monday night's game, vowing that the Mets would play hard throughout the rest of the season. No matter what.

There is a significant difference, however, between playing hard and winning. The Mets are learning that firsthand in Philadelphia, dropping a 9-4 game Tuesday after enduring a 10-0 drubbing the night before.

"There's that feeling inside, 'Oh God, I'm letting everybody down,'" manager Terry Collins said. "You've got to fight through that. And it's easy to say and hard to do."

It is not for lack of trying. Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada and others continue playing with an edge as they attempt to prove their worth for 2012.

But the Mets, quite simply, are getting beat.

Tuesday's issue was a continued reversal of fortune for Mets starter Jon Niese, who aggravated a muscle injury in his right side and may be headed to the disabled list along with outfielder Scott Hairston. Giving up two mammoth home runs and a total of eight runs in four-plus innings, Niese dug the Mets into an early hole from which they never emerged.

Duda later homered and Justin Turner drove in a run to trim the final margin to five, after the Phillies outscored them 19-0 over the first 15 innings of the series.

"This is not about effort," Collins said. "I watch the work ethic before the game, the early batting practice and everything else. That's not the issue. The issue is we're just not executing."

Though Niese started well enough, striking out two in a perfect first inning, Shane Victorino sent him into a tailspin with his solo homer in the third. Three batters later, Niese tweaked an old muscle injury on a pitch to Hunter Pence. And the next batter, John Mayberry Jr., rocked a three-run shot to deep left field, sinking Niese to yet another loss.

"After [Pence's] at-bat, I probably should have said something," Niese said. "I tried to tough it out, and unfortunately the pain just lingered there."

Although Tuesday's defeat came with that injury caveat, it still paralleled last season, when Niese spoiled what had been a superlative summer by going 1-6 with a 7.57 ERA over his final seven starts. In his six most recent outings this season, Niese is 2-3 with a 6.82 ERA.

Unlike in that stretch, however, when Niese's walk rate shot up to uncharted levels, the left-hander's peripheral stats all remain in line with his season norms. He is simply giving up an uncommon number of hits -- now 51 over his last 33 innings -- and stranding almost none of those runners on base.

It did not help on Tuesday that, given an opportunity to provide Niese with an early lead, the Mets did nothing of the sort. Putting multiple runners in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the first two innings, the Mets took called third strikes five times against Phillies starter Vance Worley, all five with men on second and third base. As a result, the Mets stranded five runners -- four of them in scoring position -- over the first two innings. And Worley cruised through the rest of his seven innings, not allowing a run until Turner plated Nick Evans with his groundout in the seventh.

"It looked like he was getting his fastball up in the strike zone but he was moving it in and out, he was moving it around," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He got enough secondary stuff over to keep them off-balance."

That was hardly what Wright envisioned less than 24 hours earlier, when he marched into Collins' office and vowed to keep the Mets competitive. Moments later, Wright repeated that sentiment to a crowd gathered around his locker.

"We just can't allow ourselves to just play out the season," the third baseman said. "It's obviously a bad situation to begin with. And the last thing you want to do is just go out there and play the games for the sake of playing the games."

It was a speech that appeared to have the desired effect. Said Collins, the following afternoon: "When you're David Wright, you're a five-time All-Star and you're the face of this organization. When you speak up, people listen."

Yet words alone cannot morph replacement players into All-Stars, and the Mets -- for right now, at least -- have more of the former than the latter. It is their job, then, to play with more effort and desire than their challengers, despite an unrelenting set of negative circumstances.

"I'm not going to let them get down," Collins said. "I'm not going to let that happen. My teams do not get down. The minute you get down, the minute you start to give up, is the minute teams will start to beat you around at this level."

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