NEW YORK -- Frustrated, aggravated, somber, silent. Take your pick.
After the Mets' 5-2 loss to the Nationals' on Wednesday afternoon, the clubhouse was exactly how one would expect it to be. Those who addressed the media had run out of ways to describe the team's recent performances -- the Mets have lost six straight and 11 of 12 since the All-Star break.
Wednesday's matinee was the low point. Manager Terry Collins stressed player accountability in his postgame news conference, and Tim Byrdak and Josh Thole -- who engaged in a verbal disagreement in the dugout after Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer off Byrdak in the seventh inning -- were apologetic that emotions had boiled over.
The loss wrapped up the first winless homestand of at least six games for the Mets since 2002.
"Once in a while, when things go bad, you start making excuses, and I don't deal with excuses," Collins said. "I deal with accountability -- standing up and being a man, standing up and being a professional baseball player and playing the game right. This was never about effort, but we're going to get back on track."
"We're going to play the game the way we played it a month ago -- get big hits, grind out at-bats, pitch, make pitches," he said. "[Starter] Jeremy Hefner pitched very, very well today. No disrespect to the Nationals, they're an outstanding team. They're very, very good. They have outstanding pitching and they're not easy to beat, but we're better than the way we're playing, and we're going to prove it."
New York's post-All Star break troubles fall heavily on, statistically, the league's worst bullpen and a rotation that has been adding and dropping members due to injury and/or ineffectiveness, but Collins said that every member of his team has to take a look in the mirror.
Hefner did deliver six quality innings in just his fourth start of the season and first since June 6, but regardless, the Mets needed more.
Stephen Strasburg was brilliant for Washington, scattering just four hits and one run -- a solo shot by Ike Davis in the second inning -- and striking out 11 to shut down New York's offense for seven innings.
New York did draw three consecutive walks to lead off the bottom of the eighth against the Washington 'pen but plated just one run after a lineout to center by Ruben Tejada and back-to-back groundouts by Jordany Valdespin -- which scored the run -- and David Wright.
"You know, that's the thing about baseball, that any team can beat any other team on any given day," Strasburg said. "They're having a tough time right now, but we've got a long season to go. They know that, and we know that."
And for Collins, the remainder of New York's season -- 64 games -- begins on Thursday in Arizona, when top prospect Matt Harvey will make his Major League debut.
"The first half is over; we're proud of it. The last 12 days, they're now over; we're not proud of it," Collins said. "We have to start a new drive moving forward.
"You're going to see a different team here in the next 10 days. We're going to go back and do the things that got us here. We haven't played well, and we're not going to make any excuses. We have to play better."
Wright, who finished 0-for-4 on Wednesday but has been the Mets' only consistent source of offense, relayed a similar message.
"The losing is one thing. The way that we're going about it is unacceptable," David Wright said. "There's going to be times when we don't play well, there's going to be times when we don't pitch well, there's going to be times when we don't hit well. But the way that we're going about our business right now isn't the way that we did the first half. The preparation is there, but we're not having those same at-bats and not making those same pitches we did in the first half."
Despite now trailing Washington by 11 1/2 games in the National League East, the addition of a second Wild Card berth means New York's season certainly isn't over. But with the 11-game road trip set to kick off tomorrow, all focus needs to be on execution in order for it to stay that way.
"You have to dig deep within yourself to do whatever you can from your individual standpoint to pull this thing out and pick up guys behind you," Byrdak said. "You dig deeper. You've got to put the frustration aside. No one's going to feel sorry for you."
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.