Knack in clutch spots eludes Mets

Knack in clutch spots eludes Mets

NEW YORK -- The Mets floated through this one for more than four hours -- never quite in it, never quite out of it, every open door leading to another one bolted shut.

The final score of 11-8 was close, especially for a slugfest of this nature. And it was, to an extent -- always close enough to keep strands of tension in the air, but never quite close enough to tie those strands into the rally that would reverse the tide.

So it came as a frustrating truth that eight runs weren't enough to overcome the Yankees. It didn't even seem like eight runs, to be fair; those extra scores wrenched out of rallies that could have -- and perhaps should have -- been much greater.

"We scored eight runs," said outfielder Shawn Green, crossed between pride and lament. "Once they got ahead, it was kind of a strange way to unfold. It was always a big inning away from winning."

A big inning that never came. It could have happened in the seventh, when the Mets put two on with just one out. It certainly could have happened in the eighth, when two more batters reached, this time with no outs. And it appeared to be happening in the ninth, when the Mets plated two and sent Carlos Beltran to take his hacks against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera as the potential go-ahead run.

Yet Beltran took just one hack, hitting a foul popout to end the game on the first pitch he saw. That was his third popout of the game, along with a grounder, a flyout and a strikeout that, when summed, produced an unsightly 0-for-6.

Beltran wasn't shy about hinting that his strained left quad was part of the problem, stunting the switch-hitter's at-bats from the left side.

"I'm not going to lie, it bothers me," Beltran said. "It's one of those things where it doesn't get better if I don't rest. The only way it's going to get better is me taking some time off."

Yet Beltran said he wouldn't consider taking a rest, and the Mets can ill afford it with Moises Alou's condition stalled and Endy Chavez sidelined as well. Beltran also stressed that his job is to play through it, despite his .264 average from the left side and despite his .143 average in June.

After his 0-for-6 day on Saturday, Beltran has just six singles in his last 40 at-bats, without an RBI or extra-base hit.

"But I'm not blaming any of that for the bad day I had today," Beltran said. "I just had a bad day."

And a frustrating one. Beltran's popout tore apart a rally that had shaken the Hall of Fame-bound Rivera, molding a game out of what moments before had been a five-run rout. Instead, Beltran couldn't keep the line moving, leaving an eager David Wright awaiting on deck.

"I wanted to get up there," Wright said. "You want every opportunity to go up there with the game on the line and the bat in your hands."

Wright had neither opportunity, instead posing as the only Met denied a crack at Rivera. Yet with 12 runners stranded in the game, the Mets passed on plenty of previous chances against admittedly lesser pitchers.

The offense isn't exactly to blame. It's hard to scold a lineup that pushed across eight runs -- more than they had in their previous four games combined -- and 14 hits. But 11 of those hits were singles, and few of them caused much damage on the score sheet. Instead, it became a matter of OBP equals LOB -- the more baserunners the Mets had, the more runners they stranded.

And even that final rally had an air of terminal inevitability -- the Mets could come close, but never quite plunge past that line.

"Bases loaded, we keep getting base hits, that's what we can do," said Ruben Gotay, whose looking strikeout doused those hopes from light to dim. "Mariano is a good closer. Right now, he's one of the best. He got us this time."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.