Mets' streak ends at five in nightcap
Tatis homers, but Rockies get to Niese after strong start
NEW YORK -- An image of the 11th-hour home run Omir Santos hit against Jonathan Papelbon in Fenway Park on May 23 visited the Mets' dugout in the 11th hour Thursday night. Santos was to bat again with a game taking its last breaths. A runner was on base with the Mets trailing by two runs with two outs. Tired as they were, they were thinking what might resuscitate their evening, maybe even extend it a few innings. They were thinking how they might extend their winning streak, too.
And therein lies the difference between the Mets of July 30 and the Mets of earlier this month.
The Mets were thinking CPR before the 17th pitch from Huston Street became the third strike to Santos and created the 27th out in their 4-2 loss to the Rockies. An identical scenario a week or two earlier would have convinced them a loss was imminent.
"Now," David Wright would explain later, "when we're in a tough situation, we think we can get out of it."
Left unsaid was how the Mets would have reacted in a similarly challenging circumstance before a winning streak significantly altered their sense of self and the middle of their summer.
"We've proven we can with this group of guys," Wright said.
The Mets' winning streak is no more. Losing in the second game of their day-night doubleheader Thursday ended it as five. But the defeat was not the first falling domino, the Mets insisted. Even if it is followed Friday by a second successive loss, they're convinced they haven't fallen back into the pit.
Winning their final two games in Houston and the first three of their four-game series against the Rockies -- the Mets won Thursday afternoon's matinee, 7-0, behind Johan Santana -- has reinforced their mettle. The Mets faced two formidable opponents, and they won five of seven games. They have won successive series for the first time since the final week of May. Winning streaks are one thing. Winning series is what they want.
"When you're not thinking right, you start compounding things," Wright said.
The Mets' surprising midsummer surge and the hitting that had fueled it evaporated in the second-game loss. The players were disappointed. Mostly, they were tired, but there was some residual resistance evident in their manner as they departed their workplace after 13 hours.
This time, the 11th hour brought no reprieve. The Mets' at-bats that preceded it brought merely six hits. In a way, their 52nd loss was similar to so many that had come before -- insufficient offense and flawed pitching. But the aftermath wasn't nearly so gloomy.
The Rockies scored once in the sixth inning against losing pitcher Jon Niese and thrice in the seventh against Niese and Brian Stokes. Prior to that, Colorado had scored three times in the first 3 1/2 games, and not at all for 27 innings.
The most telling of the eight hits Niese (1-1) allowed in 6 1/3 innings was a two-run home run by Clint Barmes, the third batter in the seventh. Niese had allowed a booming leadoff double by winning pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and retired Seth Smith on a sensational diving catch by Fernando Tatis in left field, before Barmes hit his second home run of the series. The pitch was a misplaced cutter when Niese released it, and was more misplaced after Barmes swung.
The final run scored when Troy Tulowitzki tripled against Stokes to bring home Todd Helton.
Niese, who walked four and struck out three, limited the Rockies to six baserunners in the first five innings. But a leadoff walk, aggressive baserunning by Tulowitzki and a run-scoring single by Ryan Spilborghs ended the Mets' streak of scoreless innings and tied the game in the sixth. The streak was the longest since Mets pitchers logged 28 scoreless innings in May 2004.
Tatis led off the seventh with his sixth home run, his second of the series, against De La Rosa (9-7), who has notched victories in his past seven starts, a Rockies record. De La Rosa struck out five and allowed three hits, all for extra bases, and walked three in 6 1/3 innings.
The Mets had no answers for De La Rosa and his followers. They didn't play that poorly. They made no errors. And if they flubbed a first-inning chance by misreading a sign ... well, winning a doubleheader is difficult for a number of reasons.
And sometimes, as Mets manager Jerry Manuel pointed out: "You just get beat."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.