That machete Omar Minaya had smuggled to Colorado might get some use if this persists much longer.
Two weeks after the Wilpons hauled Willie Randolph into a meeting to explain himself, the Mets again return home two games under .500, and again coming off a trip that included being swept in four games. Only now, the division leader is the Phillies, not the Marlins. And the 7-1/2-game deficit is the Mets' largest in the NL East since 2005.
Asked to record his second four-out save this season - the other came in the Bronx in relief of Johan Santana - Billy Wagner never saw the ninth inning. Handed a two-run lead with two Padres on base, the closer gave up an RBI single to Jody Gerut, then a three-run, pinch-hit homer to ex-Met Tony Clark as the Mets lost, 8-6. The Mets (30-32) were swept in a four-game series in San Diego for the first time since 1980.
The trip was eeily similar to their previous journey away from Shea, where they went 1-6 in Atlanta and Colorado. After a four-game sweep at Turner Field, Minaya joined the team in Denver, and Randolph - in a bit of gallow's humor - joked that the GM had brought along a machette to cut him loose. Randolph wasn't joking Sunday.
"I don't know what to say," Randolph said. "I'm not usually at a loss for words, but what do you say? We finally score some runs. And Billy, who has been pitching lights out all year, gives it up. We have to find a way. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing to be swept twice four games in two weeks. This is not the kind of team we are. We have to find a way to get it right and get it done."
Said David Wright: "The Phillies, obviously, are a great team. I wouldn't have planned it or drew it up this way to be this far behind. We better figure something out quickly because we're too good of a team to continue to play as poorly as we are and expect to be in this race come the end of the year. There are a few options. We can continue to go out there and have these ups and downs and just play out the rest of the season, or we can figure it out and get things turned around and take this to heart and rattle off a good month or so. This is where we need to make a stand. We're already too far behind the Phillies as far as where we'd like to be. I don't think we're nearly playing the kind of baseball we're capable of."
Things don't get any easier. After Monday's day off, when travel-weary players will be in Greenwich, Conn., for a team-sponsored charity event after a cross-country flight, the NL West-leading Diamondbacks arrive at Shea. On tap: Micah Owings, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, who are a combined 23-10 despite the Mets handling them in Phoenix.
"Why would it?" Wagner asked about getting any easier. "I mean, San Diego is not the upper-echelon team and we just got swept by them. We're going to play the top team in the West. We'll see how that works out."
After three straight 2-1 defeats to the Jake Peavy-less and Chris Young-less Padres, the Mets jumped on Wil Ledezma for three first-inning runs, with Damion Easley contributing an RBI single and Carlos Delgado delivering a two-run triple. But Pedro Martinez, in his second start since returning from a strained left hamstring, allowed three runs in the bottom half. Martinez balked in one run, and later gave up a two-run single to Paul McAnulty.
Martinez, who quibbled with the umps over the strike zone, allowed four runs on 10 hits while tossing 97 pitches in five innings. Still, the Mets took a 6-4 lead into the eighth, when Duaner Sanchez was pulled with two out, two Padres on base and the lefty-hitting Gerut at the plate. Gerut delivered an RBI single, then Clark - in the twilight of his career, and with his power waning - followed with a three-run homer on a full-count offering.
"A stupid pitch to the first guy I faced - Gerut, throwing him an 0-1 slider," Wagner said. "He had no chance at the fastball and I threw him the slider. It hung on the plate. That was the guy to get out. I shouldn't have had to face T.C."