09/09/09 11:53 PM ET
Marlins' homers hamper Misch, Mets
New York unable to rally from early four-run deficit at Citi
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
It is as simple as that. Their 4-2 loss Tuesday and 6-3 loss Wednesday night differed in score, date, time, some names and a few other details. The Marlins have scored here and there by hitting fat pitches into the seats of Citi Field. And the Mets have played small ball, not necessarily by design, and scored on outs more often than hits. Their MO -- the letters stand for modest offense -- has been lacking.
The variation on the theme Wednesday is that New York's 77th defeat -- the club lost 73 games last season -- might have been averted had a double play been achieved with one out in the top of the first inning. Instead, the third out of the inning happened after Cody Ross hit a three-run home run against Pat Misch to produce a 4-0 deficit that, to the Mets, bore more than a slight resemblance to the Himalayas.
A team averaging 4.19 runs per game might score .19 runs more readily than four.
"We're not that kind of team," Jeff Francoeur said.
And no one refuted his assessment.
"It's tough when we get down four right away. We had a lot of time left, but ..."
But hardly any firepower. By the time the Mets resisted, scoring three times in the sixth inning, the Marlins had scored three more runs. And after three more innings, the Mets were 12 games behind the second-place Fish, 15 from a .500 winning percentage and 23 from the end of the season.
Before this one began, manager Jerry Manuel, many of his thoughts focused on next season, acknowledged the Mets' conspicuous lack of power and said it could be "somewhat offset" by speed and timely hitting. As he spoke, his team led the National League in stolen bases -- hardly the only measure of team speed -- and batting average with runners in scoring position. But it was last in home runs, closer to last place than first in the National League East and had a winning percentage higher than only three others in the league.
As presently constituted -- even with Carlos Beltran and David Wright back in the batting order -- the Mets are not a team that can scale the Himalayas. They operate in nearly every game with a margin for error so narrow it has no other side. So when they couldn't overcome the double play not turned in the first, it was standard operating procedure.
The play developed when Dan Uggla topped a ground ball to third base with the bases loaded and one out. Wright handled it cleanly, stepped on third to force one run and threw -- sidearm -- to first, or close to it. The second out wasn't achieved. One run scored, and three pitches later, three more.
"One mistake cost us," Francoeur said.
"We could have easily left that inning, 1-0," Manuel said, "if we get the double play."
"I wanted to make the play," Wright said. "I did everything I could."
Misch (1-2) still was pitching in the sixth when Uggla hit a home run with the bases empty, the Marlins' eighth home run in eight games at Citi. The Mets have hit three in the eight games. But thus far in this series, they have 11 hits, including three doubles and a triple, and one fly ball to the warning track. Speed has played a role only in the triple Angel Pagan hit Tuesday and the double he hit Wednesday.
The Marlins, meanwhile, have showed the Mets their trot four times in two nights. They have scored 10 runs in the two games, and eight have scored on home runs. Ross and Uggla have hit 21 and 26 home runs, respectively. New York's two leading home run hitters are Gary Sheffield (10) and Daniel Murphy (nine). The Mets are last in the NL in home runs with 81. They have hit 46 at Citi Field, while their opponents have hit 74.
Misch was gone after six innings, having allowed six hits and five runs. He walked none and struck out one. Ricky Nolasco (11-8) was the winning pitcher. He allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings, all three coming in the seventh when Murphy drove in one run with a double, and Francoeur and pinch-hitter Fernando Tatis drove in one run each with a sacrifice fly and an infield out.
The Mets have scored five runs in the series, four on outs -- two sacrifice flies, two ground balls. How are they to overcome a four-run deficit with that kind of production?
"Down 4-0 before we come up," Wright said. "By no means does it mean we can't come back. We're the kind of team now that comes back by chipping away here and there. That's the kind of rally we had tonight."
And the night before. And neither worked.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.