Mets squander chances in loss
Second successive extra-innings affair goes to Braves
NEW YORK -- The homestand was 6-2 in the Mets' favor; the score was 8-7 against them. In the world of hyphenated baseball numbers, the Mets chose to revel in the former and, by all indications, rationalize the other. They left Citi Field early Wednesday evening hardly stung by the one-run loss they had suffered against the Braves and seemingly convinced they had done all that could be done for 12 innings.
They had been on the threshold of a victory in the traditional nine, put there by a grand slam by Fernando Tatis, a dazzling throw by Ryan Church and a home run by Gary Sheffield that tied the score in the eighth inning. But no one carried the Mets over that threshold and, ultimately, they were undone by the solo home run Martin Prado hit against Ken Takahashi, their last available reliever.
And no one, save Takahashi, seemed particularly upset by the defeat. Evidently a successful homestand is a comforting salve for a blemished performance and their seventh loss in 14 games decided by one run. Long faces were at a minimum and even the hush that often follows losses was missing from the postgame clubhouse. First place still was theirs.
"Every time they scored, we had an answer," David Wright said, overlooking the Mets' scoreless response to Prado's home run.
"We can't get carried away with our success," Sheffield said after his team had lost for the second time in three home games to a division opponent.
"I'm pretty pleased with where we are and the spirit of the team," manager Jerry Manuel said.
No one expected the Mets to hang their heads after 33 games, 18 of which have been victories. But given how they had won Tuesday, coming from three runs down and winning on a final-pitch bases-loaded walk, they could have lost all three games in the series easily.
Manuel seeks a higher level of play from his team and doesn't appear or sound dissatisfied when it isn't delivered. The team's first extra-innings loss included several instances that fell short of a higher level. Two involved Jose Reyes, the increasingly perplexing shortstop of skill and ragged performance. Less than 24 hours after Reyes was thrown out at third on an unwise attempt to stretch a double, he was guilty of two -- perhaps three -- baserunning mistakes Wednesday.
Leading off the 12th, Reyes hit a fly ball off the wall in left and watched its journey before he put his considerable speed to use.
"I hit it good," he said. "I thought it was going to go out."
Once the ball fell short, it lacked triple potential, he later explained, because it caromed hard and directly to left fielder Garrett Anderson. Reyes knew that much because he had watched it. He responded with "Nope, nope" when asked about the possibility of three bases.
Five innings earlier, he was thrown out at third for the second out when he tried to advance from second on a ground ball to the shortstop.
"A bad baserunning day," he said.
Moreover, Reyes didn't slide or try to escape by forcing a rundown.
"He was embarrassed," Manuel said. He acknowledged Reyes should have slid, too. But he said nothing to the shortstop.
"He knows I know it was bad baserunning," Reyes said.
There were more examples of the kind of play that preceded the seven-game winning streak and put the Mets in a 9-12 hole. The Mets had leadoff hits in the ninth, 10th and 12th innings. Only Reyes, in the 12th, reached third. They had three hits in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Wright made his second costly error of the series in the seventh when the Braves tied the score at six with an unearned run against Bobby Parnell. Mets starter Jon Niese, optioned to the Minor Leagues after the game, allowed one-out walks to Yunel Escobar in the first and third innings when the Braves produced leads of 2-0 and 4-2.
Carlos Beltran was on second and Sheffield was on first in the fourth when Wright hit a flare to shallow center. Beltran jogged to third. The seventh grand slam of Tatis' career and the Mets' second this season followed immediately and overshadowed Beltran's misdemeanor.
That the Mets grounded into three double plays; that J.J. Putz allowed two doubles and a run in the eighth, just as he had Tuesday night; that Chipper Jones delivered as if he were batting at Shea Stadium; that Beltran and Sheffield struck out with the tying run on third -- all that was just baseball.
"It was a good game, back and forth," Wright said. "We didn't take advantage of all the momentum shifts. But we battled back, and if we keep this up, we'll be OK. It would have been nice to win and cap off a great homestand. But we're happy with what we did."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.