We've seen this movie before.
The Mets head to the All-Star break with a record on the right side of .500, that record holding off concerns about the makeup and talent level of the team just enough to provide hope that the season would end in tears of joy. And then the wheels come off the bus as the second half gets underway, which results in a very different sort of tears.
It's an old story, but that doesn't make it any less painful to watch it happen right in front of your eyes once again. The Mets are in the throes of another death spiral after getting swept by the Dodgers, their ninth loss in the last 10 games, and they can no longer point to their record as reason to sustain belief in this team's chances.
Sunday's 8-3 loss came in 12 excruciating innings, complete with a ninth inning comeback to tie the game and raise spirits just enough to have them absolutely crushed by a 12th inning of misery. Ramon Ramirez got torched by the Dodgers, Lucas Duda blew a play in right field and the Mets, at 47-48, have a losing record for the first time all year.
The worst part of the whole situation is that it is almost impossible to find something for the truly faithful to cling to at this point. Johan Santana is on the disabled list, which is almost merciful given the way that he's been pitching.
It is now worth wondering if the Mets' first no-hitter came at the expense of an essential starter as Santana has been awful over the last month. The Mets offense, so opportunistic all season, is coming off a Sunday when they were 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position.
It seems hard to fail that often, at least until you look at the lineup doing the failing. David Wright keeps on trucking and Jordany Valdespin has a flair for the dramatic, but there isn't much else to point to as a positive on the offensive side of things right now.
Duda's power is his only truly good skill, but he's now got a slugging percentage south of .400. Ike Davis still hasn't figured things out offensively, Jason Bay is Jason Bay and the lineup seems to do just enough every day to make sure the loss is as painful as possible.
The suddenness of the turnaround seems to have caught Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and the rest of the brain trust without any answers. Starting Santana Friday with an ankle issue felt like a team realizing its moment of desperation, as did using R.A. Dickey as a reliever on Saturday, but using Miguel Batista as a starter on Saturday was a team shrugging its shoulders at the prospect of a loss.
Batista's gone now and Matt Harvey will start Thursday, a decision that seems a day late and a dollar short if they didn't think he was ready to start against the Dodgers. Fixing the bullpen is a noble cause in theory, but the reality of the Mets' situation make it hard to accept spending any treasure for what's looking like a fight for .500 and not a playoff spot.
The only way to change that is to stand up right here and push back against the Nationals. At 8.5 games back with the roster the Mets currently have in place, thinking about contention if the losing continues is about as foolish as thinking about running a marathon the day after an epic drinking binge.
This series will either drop the curtain on the meaningful portion of the Mets season or it will extend the illusion/dream into August. There isn't any middle ground anymore.
We know the Mets will fight because they have fought all season. We're just rapidly losing faith that they can win the fight.
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