Mets Go from First to Fourth in Three Easy Steps

Three straight losses have stopped the Mets flat

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Another swing and a miss for the Mets.

    On Monday, the Mets tied the Cardinals twice before Jon Rauch blew the game by allowing a home run in the top of the eighth inning.

    Tuesday was even twistier as the Mets came back early and then took three separate leads over the Nationals that they handed back through a series of sloppy mistakes and exhausted relief pitching. They were both the kinds of losses that linger with you for a while, which might explain what happened on Wednesday night.

    There were no dramatic turns or epic meltdowns, but there was a pervasive lack of energy around the Mets in their 5-3 loss to the Nationals. They fell behind 3-0 in the first inning on an Adam LaRoche homer and they never really felt fully engaged even when they closed the score to 4-3 in the seventh inning.

    Perhaps that's because they scored two of their three runs on groundouts, which are more productive than outs that don't lead to runs but a pretty ineffective way to build a rally.

    Against a pitcher like Edwin Jackson, who walks hitters with great frequency, generating rallies is essential and the Mets just couldn't seem to find a way to make good on any of their opportunities.

    The Mets weren't as sloppy as they were on Tuesday, but Daniel Murphy did Jeremy Hefner no favors in the fateful first inning when he booted a grounder to give the Nats a baserunner. Hefner walked the next hitter and then hung a curve to LaRoche that wound up digging the Mets a hole they would not escape.

    Murphy had another error later in the game. It didn't lead to any runs, but it did earn a spot in the pile of worry created by this three-game losing streak.

    The Mets have gone from a tie for first place to fourth in those three games and the culprits (defense, relief pitching) aren't things that figure to go away anytime soon. Those two things are particularly alarming for the Mets because they aren't going to be a team that bludgeons the opposition offensively.

    They are going to play a lot of close games and an inability to catch the ball cleanly (and/or get to balls that others would reach easily) really haunts you in those kinds of contests. And there's no surer way to suck the life out of a team than to give away games that you're leading in the late innings with subpar relief work.

    Combine the two, as the Mets have this week, and you've got a recipe for a particularly galling losing streak. Now it is up to R.A. Dickey to stop the bleeding ahead of a trip to the Bronx that looked a lot more appealing when the week got underway.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.