MLB.com Columnist

Hal Bodley

Bodley: Mets need dramatic turnaround

Bodley: Mets need dramatic turnaround

This should tell you something about the New York Mets: They haven't won back-to-back games since late June, and haven't won a National League road series all season.

The Mets limped out of Philadelphia on Sunday night, losers of a 6-5 squeaker to Roy Halladay and the Phillies, with their playoff hopes virtually dead.

General manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel disagree, but for the Mets to overtake Atlanta and Philadelphia, it will take a dramatic reversal in the way they've played since the All-Star break.

I just can't see that happening.

"We have a lot of baseball left," said Minaya. "We've seen [over] the past couple of years [that] teams have had the ability to come back. We're still in this. We're not thinking yet about next year."

Manuel put it this way: "I can sense the fight, not a give-up. There has never been a hint of giving up. Because we have done it before this season, we know what we're capable of doing."

On June 18, the Mets completed an eight-game winning streak, were 11 games over .500 and trailed first-place Atlanta by a half-game.

Late in May, they shut out the Phillies in three straight games, outscoring them, 16-0.

At that point I stuck out my neck and said that the Mets just might be the team to beat before the dust settles in the NL East.

Mike Pelfrey was winning 10 of 12 decisions, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was proving a great addition to the rotation and the Mets were waiting for All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran to return from surgery.

Even at the All-Star break, the Mets were still in the race, four games behind Atlanta and ahead of the Phillies.

Pelfrey, who starts on Tuesday night, hasn't won since June 25, against Minnesota. He hasn't been able to complete six innings in his last seven starts, and he has been unable to complete five during that span four times.

"When you look back, it's not like you're looking out on the horizon and hoping for something," said Manuel. "We know we're very capable, because we've done it before this year."

Manuel is quick to point to the Phillies, who were seven games back as recently as July 22, and despite having had 15 players on the disabled list -- including All-Stars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins -- have closed to within two games of the Braves.

"We haven't been hitting," said Minaya. "Before the year started, everybody questioned our pitching, but it's been fine. Since we were 11 games over .500, we just haven't been able to score runs.

"We've had a couple of streaks where we've won consecutive games, whether it's nine out of 10 or whatever. We know the talent is there. Beltran is back, but for whatever reason, it's not clicking right now. "

Yes, Beltran is back, but there's little resemblance to the premier center fielder who's been one of the best in the Major Leagues. Fellow outfielder Jason Bay, who signed a big contract during the offseason, is on the disabled list, recovering from a concussion.

Beltran, who's batting just .195, struck out three times on Sunday. During the crucial, if not defining, 2-4 road trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia, he went 3-for-22 with seven strikeouts.

"I wish I can have better results, but right now nothing good is happening," Beltran said after Sunday's 6-5 loss.

All-Star third baseman David Wright went 0-for-4 on Sunday, with three strikeouts, and he finished the trip with only two hits in 23 at-bats.

"We've dug ourselves a hole, and we're going to have to do quite a bit of work these last 50 games or so to get back in," Wright said.

Manuel, whose job is obviously in jeopardy after this season unless the Mets salvage their season during the last eight weeks, said that Beltran will not start on Tuesday night, when the Mets open a series at Citi Field against the Rockies. The Phillies play there next weekend.

"[Beltran] and Wright both struggled on this trip," Manuel said. "It just appeared they were in good situations and just weren't able to get it done."

On Sunday, with the Mets trailing the Phillies, 6-3, a runner on second and nobody out, Beltran fanned. In the seventh, after the Mets had closed to within a run and had runners on first and second with two out, Beltran again struck out.

It will be extremely difficult for the Mets, because the Phillies and Braves are playing so well. In addition, the Phillies will get Victorino, Howard and Utley back for the last month of the season.

"For whatever reason, offensively it's not clicking," Minaya repeated.

Even on Saturday, in a superb pitching effort by Johan Santana, the Mets lacked offense in a pitchers' duel against Cole Hamels. They won, 1-0, on Jeff Francoeur's seventh-inning homer.

"We realize we have to do it quickly, or we're going to be too many games back," said Francoeur. "We realize we're down to the last few weeks to put something together."

Manuel would like to see his team reach the point where after winning, the players come back and do the same thing the following day.

"We've been sporadic," he said in an understatement. "We haven't, for the most part, played to where we know the next day we're going to play a good game. We might not win, but we're going to play a good game. That hasn't happened in the second half."

And that's the reason the Mets haven't won back-to-back games since June 22-23, against Detroit. They haven't had consecutive victories against NL opponents since they defeated Florida and San Diego on June 8-9.

The Mets are 4-13 in their last 17 road games and 7-19 in their last 30 away from Citi Field. They're 7-16 since the All-Star Game.

Maybe Wright summed up the Mets' plight best after Sunday's 6-5 setback, a game in which Halladay wasn't sharp and they missed late-inning chances.

"We're going to have to start clicking in a number of different areas," he said. "I don't think you can say we've really excelled in any area."

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.