Terry Collins said before Monday night's game with the Cubs that he was worried his team might be gassed after playing three tight, emotional games against the Yankees over the weekend.
Collins seems to know his team well. The lineup looked like it was unaware that they were scheduled to have a game as they strode to the plate to face Travis Wood and then headed back to the dugout as if they were facing Smokey Joe Wood.
The 6-1 loss extends the Mets' losing streak to three games, but it wasn't Collins' good guess that had the most to do with the loss. It was the misguided guarantee he made when he took the job as manager before last season.
When Collins became the Mets manager, he promised a team that played fundamentally sound baseball in contrast to the rather chaotic sideshow that was life during the Jerry Manuel years. Collins' team does not make baserunning mistakes and they embarrass themselves far less often than they did in the recent past, but his overhaul hasn't done a thing about the defense.
Monday night's game was still winnable entering the bottom of the seventh because Johan Santana did his typically strong work while getting absolutely no help from his teammates. Those same teammates conspired to guarantee he'd wind up with a somewhat undeserved loss when Jon Rauch relieved him to start the inning.
Over a span of four batters, the Mets made three errors to throw open the gates to a four-run Cubs seventh that put the game way out of reach. David Wright dropped a pop-up to put a runner on third to lead off the inning, Lucas Duda butchered a shallow fly to right and Ronny Cedeno mishandled a ground ball to make their manager's promises of fundamentals sound like every campaign speech ever given in the history of politics.
Collins, whose bullpen touch has completely eluded him, decided to pull Rauch after two easy pop flys and a routine grounder and Ramon Ramirez just torched the thing from there. Ike Davis hit a homer with two outs in the ninth -- never let it be said that Davis doesn't know the meaning of "too little, too late" -- but the game was lost in the bottom of the seventh when the Mets defense went pear-shaped.
In some circumstances, you could write off a game like this as the result of hellish travel (the Mets arrived in Chicago at 4 a.m.), but not with these Mets. Their defense (and relieving, although Ramirez wasn't crucial to this loss) is atrocious even with a full night's rest and the team has little way to alter it without taking away the only decent bats they have in the lineup on a nightly basis.
And when those decent bats don't bother showing up, there's apparently not much point in bothering with catching the ball.