MIAMI -- Since the Mets have long since abandoned incredulity, they could express no emotion when Gary Sheffield walked slowly off the field in the seventh inning Tuesday. The prognosis on Sheffield was far from terrible -- a lower back spasm, and he should be just fine. But that was not the point.

The point was, on a day in which the Mets lost Johan Santana and J.J. Putz for the year, possibly lost Oliver Perez for the time being and traded away an almost-healthy player, Billy Wagner, they had to sit and endure a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. And now this.

Surprise, for the Mets, wasn't the word. Perhaps they're in shock, but they can no longer be shocked. And so they brushed off this latest injury, and this latest loss, as only a battered team can.

"It's disappointing," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "But we might as well just get all of the injuries out of the way this season, have everybody have their surgery this offseason, and next year, we'll go through the season with nobody hurt and just roll and go to the playoffs. That's my prediction."

To be certain, the Mets' defeat to the Marlins (66-59) was hardly their greatest loss of the day. That came hours earlier, when the team beamed a press release over the Internet stating, in three painfully short sentences, that Santana's season was complete.

Several hours later, two additional sentences announced the end of Putz's season. And that came after the news that Perez was being held in New York for tests, and that Wagner -- in an equally implausible subplot, one of the few healthy Mets -- had been shipped to Boston for two unidentified players.

That they then had to go out and play Florida was but an ill-timed formality of a relentless baseball season. Hardly a hot team, the Marlins are nonetheless a whole one. And when teams face the Mets (57-69) these days, that's usually enough.

Sean West, the Marlins' starter, cruised through the early innings without incident, save for Fernando Tatis' RBI single in the fourth. West (5-5) loaded the bases in the fifth, only to pop up Francoeur and punch out Tatis. And the Mets proved impotent against a hard-throwing group of Florida relievers.

All the while, Nelson Figueroa was performing admirably, even as the club's umpteenth option in the starting rotation. Fooling a Marlins lineup that was largely unfamiliar with his five-pitch array, Figueroa (1-3) allowed two runs in five innings before Mets manager Jerry Manuel removed him for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

Afterward, Manuel confirmed that in a rotation without Santana, John Maine, Livan Hernandez and possibly Perez, Figueroa had done enough to earn another start.

"I hope so," Figueroa said. "I don't know who's left."

Sheffield is here, despite the back spasm that resulted from what he called a "funky swing" in the seventh. Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy are here, representing the last of the truly healthy Mets regulars. And a host of half-healthy starters and Minor League fill-ins are here as well, hardly filling out Land Shark Stadium's spacious visiting clubhouse.

More often than not, they cannot do what the Mets want them to do. Three times, for example, they put multiple runners on base against West, and yet they were able to score just once. In one of their better-pitched games of midsummer, they never posed a serious threat to win. And they gave no indication that the final 36 games might be any different.

It has gotten to the point where even the unhealthy Mets feel obligated to contribute. Francoeur, for example, felt pain in his left thumb -- which is understandable, considering he has a torn ligament that will require surgery in the offseason. Yet team doctors told him he could not injure it more, and so Francoeur asked into the lineup prior to Tuesday's game.

He finished 2-for-4 with a run scored out of the cleanup spot, contributing the primary chunk of his team's offense.

"We're already depleted enough," Francoeur said. "If I can play and I can help this team win, I want to get out there and play."

The Mets, needing the help, weren't about to decline the offer. And so Francoeur, out on the field, turned toward his manager and provided a telling glimpse into the state of the team.

"He gave a thumbs up," Manuel said. "Even though it was torn, he put it up."