There are so many ups, downs and in-betweens over the course of a 162 game season that it seems foolish to objectively point to a particular moment in time as the time when everything ceased to matter.
The inning started with a throwing error by Jose Reyes, the kind of sloppy play that a team with no margin for error simply can't make. Mike Pelfrey buckled down and picked up two outs before walking Chipper Jones to put runners on the corners for Brian McCann. McCann had doubled home a run in the first inning and homered in the fourth, making him 14-for-33 lifetime against Pelfrey. The score was 3-2 at this point, Hisanori Takahashi was warm in the bullpen and given the import of the game and the ineptitude of the Mets offense, this was clearly an out that the Mets had to have.
Jerry Manuel chose to leave Pelfrey in to face McCann and the result was predictable. McCann doubled in a run and the Braves were on their way to an 8-3 win. That might sound like 20/20 hindsight but you saw the career stats for Pelfrey against McCann and you saw the way their previous battles had turned out on Wednesday night and, more than either of those, you know how significant it is for the Mets to win every game when you're two-thirds of the way through the season and barely clinging to the playoff race.
Pelfrey, whose once promising season has come apart faster than a shoddily constructed burrito, wasn't done. Manuel left him in to intentionally walk Eric Hinske and then, with the bases loaded, Pelfrey hit Matt Diaz to force in a fifth run. The Mets would go on to make three more errors in the sixth to lead to the 8-3 final, but the fifth was when the game became unsalvageable.
Manuel didn't manage the moment correctly because he didn't manage it like winning was the only thing that mattered. It was as if he wanted to see if Pelfrey could get himself out of the jam, something that is best saved for April or a September when there's nothing at stake. We'll be there soon enough.
If the Braves go 27-27 the rest of the way, the Mets will have to go 35-19 to tie them for first place. That, of course, assumes the Phillies don't exist. The Wild Card picture, where the Mets are further behind with five teams in their way, is even bleaker.
Mets history says You Gotta Believe that miracles can happen. That's what it's gonna take at this point.