Mets' walks not enough against Braves
New York's three runs on free passes can't prevent loss
NEW YORK -- Aaron Heilman exited the Mets' hushed clubhouse late Friday night, silently making a statement. The white-on-black words on his T-shirt read, "I'm not dead yet," an inscription from Monty Python's Spamalot. And Heilman acknowledged it was indeed a statement, not merely a by-chance choice of apparel. "Exceptionally poignant" is how he characterized the words cast against his most trying week.
Say this for these stumbling Mets: After 22 games, they have lost their glitter and their glow, lost 11 games and perhaps a sense of themselves, lost some faith and perhaps their way. But they have not lost their sense of humor.
The choice of T-shirt and the smile the inscription prompted provided one of the few lighthearted moments during the postmortems of a dreary 6-3 loss to the Braves. Heilman authorized the pluralizing of the message and offered "We're not yet dead" as a state of the team address. And of course, no team has fading vital signs when 140 games remain.
But the Mets' performances Friday and in three of the four games that preceded their return to Shea Stadium were quite inadequate. This one lacked almost everything, but offense in particular. Faced with a rookie pitcher new to them, the Mets managed two singles, neither by the top or middle of the batting order. They scored only because the rookie, Jair Jurrjens, lost control during a four-batter sequence in the third inning.
Mike Pelfrey had little command of his fastball, walking three of his first five batters and surrendering nine hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings.
It all made for a substandard Friday night -- a game all but devoid of life and tension. If not for Heilman's T-shirt disclaimer, the Mets might have been mistaken for cadavers.
Manager Willie Randolph said his team had "sputtered as a group" and vowed, "We will get better."
"It's not so much the wins and losses," David Wright said, covering old territory. "It's not doing what we're supposed to do. We're a better team than we've started out. But until we prove that, we are a .500 team."
And while Wright restricted his remark to the 22 games contested this season, it should be noted that the Mets have played to the level of mediocrity for 134 games, dating back to last season. Their record in those is thoroughly unremarkable -- 66-68.
Wright entered some unexplored territory as he continued: "We don't practice winning. We can't develop a winning attitude if we don't practice winning. ... Playing at this level does tick you off. ... It's tough to put my head on the pillow, because we're not getting the job done."
The Mets had hoped the return home and a change of opponent might have a positive effect. Randolph hoped a one-night revision of the starting lineup -- no Carlos Delgado -- might spark the offense while affording the slumping first baseman a mental day off. But the Mets again appeared lifeless.
They fell victim to a two-run home run in the sixth inning by Kelly Johnson off Pelfrey. It was the critical blow, and Johnson was the critical figure. He drove in four runs, with the home run, a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and a single in the seventh. He has 11 RBIs this season, eight against the Mets.
Jurrjens was the Braves' co-star. Other than in the third inning, when he surrendered singles by Delgado's understudy, Marlon Anderson, and Raul Casanova and walked four straight batters, the right-handed rookie allowed no baserunners in six innings.
"We let him off the ropes," Randolph said.
"After a guy has a 40-pitch inning, you can't allow him to rebound and go three more [innings]," Wright said. "We didn't get that done, and because of that we lost."
And Jurrjens was one Braves starter in this series without a track record against the Mets. Tim Hudson and John Smoltz follow.
After the singles by Anderson and Casanova and a sacrifice bunt by Pelfrey that advanced Casanova to second, Jurrjens retired Jose Reyes, but walked Luis Castillo to load the bases. He appeared to have struck out Wright on a 3-2 pitch, but home-plate umpire Tim McClelland called ball four. Anderson scored -- and Jurrjens appeared to unravel.
Jurrjens then walked Carlos Beltran and Ryan Church to force in the second and third runs.
Two of the subsequent 21 Mets batters reached base -- both on walks following Jurrjens' departure.
Some of the Mets cited fatigue for their low-octane offense.
"We'll be all right after a good night's sleep," Church said.
Some complimented Jurrjens.
"Give him credit for coming back like he did," Randolph said.
Some said nothing; some wore T-shirts that said nothing.
And some worried.
"We can say, 'It's early,'" Wright said.
It was getting late. He was headed home to not sleep.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.