You only needed to look at the Mets' lineup card before Monday's game with the Phillies to know that things haven't exactly gone to plan for the Mets this season.
Justin Turner leading off and playing shortstop is wrong in both directions and Scott Hairston as cleanup hitter is not something that anybody was dreaming about back in April. Throw in Vinny Rottino as the starting left fielder and you've got a recipe for Terry Collins to win some kind of award for navigating the Mets to a winning record at this point.
Collins' job would get harder in the top of the third inning when Turner, forced into the lineup at short by injuries to Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeno, sprained his ankle and had to leave the game. With no shortstops left on the bench, Collins had to get creative and move David Wright to the position for the second time in his career.
That would wind up coming back to haunt the Mets in the seventh inning. With a runner on first and no one out in a 4-4 game, Placido Polanco rolled one back to pitcher Bobby Parnell for what looked like a tailor-made double play.
Wright positioned himself in front of second base to receive Parnell's throw, though, and they only got the out at first. A walk and a single later made it 5-4 Phillies, a lead they'd extend with a three-run home run in the top of the ninth off of Manny Acosta that made the final score 8-4.
Acosta's gone now, designated for assignment after his latest failure on the mound, and the Mets brought up Omar Quintanilla to play shortstop until they get some healthier options at the position. Jose Reyes, whose ability to stay healthy has never been taken for granted, has missed just one game this season while the Mets scramble for a shortstop.
Even with all of that shuffling around at short, the Mets had a chance to win this game that would have been even stronger if Jon Niese had pitched a halfway decent game. Or if Collins had pulled him before the sixth inning instead of giving him just enough rope to hang himself with a John Mayberry home run.
The loss ended what had been a giddy weekend at Citi Field. Shutouts by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey pushed the record six games over .500 for the first time in ages and believers of all ages are coming out of the woodwork to show some support for this team.
Monday was the first of 25 straight games against winning teams for the Mets, a stretch that will decide whether or not those believers stick around long enough to make it a compelling stretch run in Queens. Monday -- from Niese to the lineup and back again -- was a reminder of how unlikely it is that the Mets find themselves in this position, but not until the Mets gave themselves a chance in a game they didn't have much business winning.
The next month will say much about the Mets' chances of contending in the long term, but seeing teams like the one the Mets threw out there on Monday hanging tough makes you marvel all the more at the fact that they've contended this long.