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09/09/09 12:49 AM ET

Mets fall despite Beltran's solid return

Center fielder's bat, glove healthy, but offense struggles

NEW YORK -- The Mets have decided to go the distance with the distances they have established to the outfield barriers at Citi Field. The ballpark's outfield dimensions will not be reduced, the club says, despite the dearth of home runs by the home team. But perhaps a wiser course of action would be to move the walls farther from home plate and thereby even out the playing field -- i.e. eliminate the advantage that routinely exists for visitors.

The course of their 4-2 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday night clearly suggests that a larger outfield might be beneficial for the Mets. They outhit the Fish, 10-7, and lost nonetheless because of the weapon essentially missing from their own arsenal beat them -- the Marlins hit two two-run home runs. And the Mets quite characteristically imperiled few of the folks seated between the foul poles.

And so it goes. Opponents continue to reach the seats, and the Mets have been powerless to match them. The output of the 70th game played at Citi put the Mets at a 72-46 deficit in home runs at home, and that's only half the story. They began the evening with a mere 81 home runs overall, 21 fewer than any other National League team. So it's not as though they've been sluggers on the road, where the difference is even greater -- Mets 35, opponents 63.

So why not move the walls back? If the Mets can't hit 'em out as is, make it more challenging for their opponents to do so.

"Why not?" batting coach Howard Johnson asked, with his tongue partially in his cheek. "Big is good. Bigger'd be better."

Mets starter Tim Redding surrendered home runs to Hanley Ramirez in the third inning and Cameron Maybin in the fourth Tuesday night, the latter reaching the apple basket in center field. And though the Mets threatened, they still took their eighth loss in 13 games against the team that now is two places and 11 games ahead of them.

The SNY telecast of the game featured a scheduled silent inning, the sixth. The Mets' offense produced seven silent innings, though none was planned. But they weren't unexpected either, despite the return of Carlos Beltran and the presence of David Wright. Beltran did what he could, a double and a long fly ball in four at-bats after a layoff of 2 1/2 months. Wright struck out twice, grounded into a double play and left six runners on base in four at-bats.

The Mets had hit five home runs in the previous four home games, but their only run-scoring plays Tuesday were a sacrifice fly by rookie Josh Thole in the fourth inning, and an infield single by Luis Castillo that followed a triple by Angel Pagan in the fifth.

Beltran provided the Mets' other extra-base hit, a leadoff double in the sixth. He also was the lone Met to reach the warning track. His fly ball to right field with the bases loaded proved to be the third out of the seventh inning, not a grand return.

"When I hit it, I knew I hit it a little bit out front," Beltran said. "I hit it on the good part of the bat, but it was high."

It was high enough and deep enough that the downward arc might have struck the second deck overhang. Right fielder Cody Ross caught the ball three feet from the wall.

"As it came off his bat, I thought, 'That's too high.' Then it kept traveling and traveling," Ross said. "Then it went to that part that's a little short. Once it got about halfway, I realized it wasn't going to be enough ... thankfully."

The Mets offered little resistance otherwise despite legitimate chances against winning pitcher Brian Sanches (4-1), the second of four Marlins relievers, in the sixth and seventh. Beltran never advanced from second after his double. Neither Daniel Murphy nor Jeff Francoeur hit a ball to the right side.

Successive pinch-hit singles by Jeremy Reed (batting .311 as a pinch-hitter) and Fernando Tatis (.310 in that role) put runners on first and second with none out in the seventh. Pagan was told to bunt, but he took two strikes and hit two fouls before he flied out. A single by Castillo followed, but so did Wright's 115th strikeout and Beltran's long fly ball.

The team that doesn't hit a home run also didn't execute successfully in that situation.

"If we did some things situationally, we had a shot," manager Jerry Manuel said.

Redding (2-5) emerged as the losing pitcher, allowing five hits and four walks in five innings. He has been stung by the home run in recent appearances. Redding has allowed eight home runs in his past five appearances (26 1/3 innings). The home runs accounted for 11 of the 12 runs against him. For the season, Redding has surrendered 17 home runs in 95 innings. Of the 64 runs he has allowed, 28 have scored on home runs -- nine with the bases empty, five with a runner on base and three with two runners on.

"It probably was the worst day I've ever had with command of my fastball," Redding said. "After three solid outings in a row and then not have an idea what was going on ... it was a horrible feeling."

One that might have been offset by some support or avoided altogether if the fences were farther back.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.