NEW YORK -- It all begins with pitching, they say. And sometimes, it ends there, too. Any chance the Mets had of beating the last-place Pirates in the second game of their abbreviated two-game series at Shea Stadium began and ended with inadequate pitching by Oliver Perez.

Not all the runs the Pirates scored in their 13-1 victory Wednesday were the responsibility of the pitcher, who practices schizophrenia on the mound. The first seven were, though, so Perez was appropriately the losing pitcher in a lopsided game.

Not that he was solely responsible. It wasn't an unassisted defeat Perez endured. Meager hitting and inferior defense joined hands with his poor performance to create the most unbecoming of the dozen losses the Mets have suffered in their 26 games.

With Luis Castillo committing an error on a routine ground ball and Jose Reyes neglecting his duties in a rundown, Perez allowed seven runs in the second inning, and the game deteriorated from there. The Mets endured another bat-around inning in the sixth, when Jorge Sosa was victimized by two errors, and they suffered their most lopsided defeat since a loss, by the identical score, to the Braves on Sept. 26, 2006.

Five of the runs charged to Perez and four of the five scored against Sosa in the sixth were unearned, which hardly absolved either pitcher. As Bobby Valentine once noted: "There's no rule that prohibits a pitcher from getting some outs after an error."

Then again, the Mets' three errors exceeded their hit total by one. That sort of deficit ratio, David Wright pointed out, seldom occurs in a victory.

Wright was one of several men in the Mets' clubhouse who essentially accepted the poor performance as a necessary evil that shows itself from time to time. Willie Randolph agreed.

"In 162 games, you're going to have a few stinkers like these you have to throw away," the manager said, assuming a position that two players suggested didn't reflect his true feelings. They said Randolph was troubled by the team's performance, particularly that of the defense, during the game.

Billy Wagner wasn't quite so tactful in his public remarks. "We've got to show up," he said. And he warned that comparable play this weekend in Arizona "will make it a whole lot uglier."

Each of the errors Wednesday -- one each by Castillo at second base, Wright at third and Angel Pagan in left -- contributed to the onslaught. But Reyes' inability to become involved in a rundown between first and second base was the most egregious gaffe, because of the play's appearance.

Reyes was some 50 feet removed from the base as first baseman Carlos Delgado chased Ryan Doumit toward second. Castillo already had done his part and peeled off to the side. Had an out been achieved in that play, Perez would have been spared two runs. The absence of runs six and seven wouldn't have transformed this one into a nail-biter.

A more responsible play -- and an out -- might have removed a layer of taint from this one.

Doumit hit a ground ball inside third base that Pagan was quick to retrieve as the Pirates' fourth run scored and Freddy Sanchez advanced to third. Reyes had gone near the left-field line to take a relay throw from Pagan, but the left fielder threw to Castillo at second. Doumit was caught between first and second as Castillo and Delgado initiated a rundown, while staying mindful of Sanchez trying to score.

When Delgado looked to second base to make a throw, the base was unattended. Reyes might not have been able to become involved, but he had no other place to be, and the sight of him rushing toward second might have persuaded Doumit to make a U-turn.

Teammates absolved Reyes, saying the shortstop was too far away. Reyes offered a variation on that theme: "It was too late for me to get there."

Randolph didn't say that, but he seemingly excused Reyes' inaction, identifying it as a mental mistake. It was left to Sandy Alomar, the third-base coach, who suggested someone -- Perez? -- should have directed Reyes.

And it was left to veteran observer Marlon Anderson to offer sage insight: "They way we played today, if Jose had been on second base, the throw probably would have gone into left field."

Okay, so maybe the Mets couldn't help themselves in this day game after a night game. Maybe it was the residue of former Mets Rod Kanehl and Teddy Martinez at work. The day's first pitch had been delayed 40 minutes because of a water main break on 126th Street, the street adjacent to Citi Field.

Perez (2-2) dismissed that as a reason and said that he'll work hard to prepare for his next start.

"Sometimes you don't have your stuff, and you have to find what you can do to get out of the inning," Perez said.

"Sometimes I have trouble making strikes," said Perez, who threw 55 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, with 27 called balls.

The Mets had seen the same sort of performance from Perez last July 26, in another game against the Pirates at Shea. He allowed one hit and no walks and struck out eight through five innings, but he never faced a batter in the seventh. He allowed five runs in the sixth, four after two outs, and his own throwing error made all five runs unearned.

And just last week, in his start on Thursday in Washington, the Mets led, 3-0, through 4 1/2 innings. Perez then allowed four singles and two walks in a nine-batter sequence that spanned the fifth and sixth inning, which led to his departure with two runners on base and the score tied. The Mets have lost four of his six starts.

Perez has a tough time dealing with adversity, even that of his own making. That he tied for the league leader in unearned runs last season, 20, is indicative of that. Now he has allowed five in 29 innings.

But it's early, the Mets say. Hopefully, in Perez's case, that is a portent of good things yet to come.