"We don't have much room to talk ourselves, talking about, 'We should beat this team, should beat that team,'" third baseman David Wright said. "There's probably a lot of teams saying that about us right now."
On Sunday, it was a bit of everything that led to their defeat. For once, New York's offense succeeded, on an afternoon when Matt Harvey did not. But so many other mistakes pockmarked the Mets' day.
Asked to protect a two-run lead in the sixth, lefty Scott Rice walked the bases loaded with one out, but manager Terry Collins left him in the game to face a right-handed hitter, Marcell Ozuna. Collins reasoned that Ozuna typically struggles against left-handed sinkerballers, but the rookie responded by crushing a Rice changeup for a two-run, game-tying double, setting up Chris Coghlan to put the Marlins ahead with an RBI groundout.
Ed Lucas added a run-scoring double in the seventh inning, before Greg Dobbs put the game out of reach with a three-run homer off LaTroy Hawkins in the eighth. And that is how a promising afternoon turned into a rout.
"Getting swept is not fun," said first baseman Ike Davis, whose breakout offensive game kept the Mets close for a while. "Especially after sweeping the Yankees, we felt [too] good to come in here and get our butts beat."
It all happened after an uncharacteristically mortal Harvey exited the game. Allowing a season-high four runs and 10 hits in a season-low five innings, Harvey also walked two and struck out five.
Still, better defense could have prevented much of the damage against the young ace. After Juan Pierre led off the first inning with a bunt single and Lucas guided one of his career-high four hits through the right side, Ozuna smacked a hard-hit fly to center. Though it was a catchable ball, Rick Ankiel misread it, allowing it to drop over his head for a two-run triple. The next batter, Coghlan, popped a flare just out of the reach of shortstop Omar Quintanilla to bring home another run.
Though the Marlins ceased scoring against Harvey after Lucas' RBI single in the second inning, they continued battering the right-hander with hits. The result was the seventh no-decision in 12 starts for Harvey, who remained unbeaten at 5-0.
"It was a struggle with everything," he said. "I didn't execute my pitches very well, and it was just one of those days where they were finding the holes."
The Mets battled back on solo homers from Lucas Duda in the second inning and Quintanilla in the third, tying the game at 4 on Davis' two-run homer in the fourth -- a blast to straightaway center with an estimated distance of 425 feet. Davis later added an RBI single off left-hander Wade LeBlanc, giving him eight hits in his last 25 at-bats.
Knocking Marlins starter Kevin Slowey out of the game with one out in the fifth, the Mets took the lead on Marlon Byrd's RBI single off LeBlanc, and extended it on Davis' hit, with both runs charged to Slowey. But they could do nothing more against LeBlanc and three other relievers.
And so they retreated back to their clubhouse, packed their bags quietly and spoke of better times to come in Washington. Catcher John Buck noted that "as quick as things turned around in New York, we can do it again in D.C." Collins cited Davis' success as evidence that "maybe things are changing." And perhaps they are.
But the Mets also know that they just lost three straight games, and six on the season, to a team with 16 wins. Saying they should have beaten the Marlins may not be politically correct, but in every corner of their quiet clubhouse, the Mets at least knew that they could have.
"You feel like you're playing pretty good baseball, you squeak out a couple close ones, you have a couple good all-around games," Wright said. "And then you go to the opposite end of that spectrum. We're really not doing much right."