06/21/07 1:23 AM ET
Mets drop game, series to Twins
Perez falters, offense limited to two runs despite nine hits
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
The glove toss, executed in frustration, returned to Shea Stadium on Tuesday night with David Wright abusing his leather after his second error. Oliver Perez and Scott Schoeneweis followed suit during Wednesday night's 6-2 loss to the Twins after they'd hit too many bats.
And those are only the reactions visible to the public eye. The Mets' stiff upper lip has lost some of its rigidity.
The losing has reached unfathomable proportions, and solutions -- timely hits, quality starts and reliable relief -- are in short supply. Exasperation is not.
The Mets wore it on their faces and their sleeves on Wednesday. They were outplayed for the second straight night by a Twins team that is driven and fundamentally sound.
Their seventh loss in 12 Interleague games also was their 14th defeat in 18 games this month and, remarkably, their 18th loss in 36 games at Shea Stadium.
"Everyone should be frustrated a little," manager Willie Randolph said. "We're struggling. No one expected this, especially after the start we had."
Then the skipper invoked the wisdom of the legendary singing group the Shirelles: "Mama said there'd be days like this," he said. "And weeks."
The Mets have lost six successive series and have not won consecutive games since May 27 and 29, creating a slump comparable with only one other during Randolph's two-plus seasons as manager. The Mets also faltered in late summer 2005, and that descent cost them a chance to play in the postseason.
This one hasn't even cost them their lead in the National League East. So perhaps these are a different species of Miracle Mets, able to lose 14 of 18 games before they have reached the midpoint of their season and still retain a lead of 1 1/2 games.
But the truth, as spoken by Paul Lo Duca, is, "If we'd played halfway decent through this, we'd have a nice, comfortable lead."
Instead they have been inconsistent, literally taking one step forward and several steps back in three sequences in the last dozen days.
Jorge Sosa shut down the Tigers on June 8, but the Mets lost the second and third games of that series by a combined score of 23-14 before being swept by the Dodgers.
Then Perez (7-6), the losing pitcher on Wednesday, dominated the Yankees in the first game of the Subway Series on Friday, but the Mets were outscored 19-10 in the subsequent two games.
John Maine pitched so well on Monday in an 8-1 victory against the Twins that the Mets were certain they had "snapped out of it." But since then they have been outscored 15-2.
"We've been beaten every single way you can imagine the last two weeks," Lo Duca said. "And we've beaten ourselves."
The M.O. on Wednesday night was familiar, as once again the Mets scored first. But unlike on Tuesday night, when they were shut out by a two-time Cy Young Award winner, the Mets were shut down by a marginal pitcher, Scott Baker, who began the evening having allowed 39 baserunners and 20 runs in his four most recent starts and 18 2/3 innings.
New York scored first and in the first inning, a formula that worked so well last season. They led, 2-1, through four innings. But Perez surrendered a two-run homer to Torii Hunter on a flat slider with two out in the fifth after allowing one of his five walks, and the Mets barely responded against Baker (2-2) and his four successors.
The Mets hit three singles, two by Jose Valentin, and took their lone walk in two games in the final six innings. Their greatest threat came in the eighth, when they put runners on first and third with two outs against Pat Neshek. But Valentin lined out to first base, ending the threat.
But they'd lost this one earlier, when they couldn't solve Baker. Carlos Beltran had three hits and one RBI against him, and David Wright drove in the other run with a well-directed single. But the Mets had just one other at-bat with runners in scoring position against Baker, and one following his departure.
Perez, who had been the Mets' most reliable starting pitcher -- he had a 5-2 record after losses -- allowed 10 baserunners and four runs in 5 1/3 innings.
The critical hits against him -- Hunter's home run and a run-scoring triple by Justin Morneau in the third -- came with two outs and when Perez was ahead in the count. And the relievers didn't fare any better. Joe Smith allowed an inherited runner to score on a single and walked his other batter. Schoeneweis allowed two inherited runners to score on a double by the first batter he faced, Joe Mauer, and left the field after two outs to boos from the crowd.
"This town is all about results," Lo Duca said.
And no one disputed that.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.