The imbalance of the Mets' season is evident to all and lamented by some. So it was early on Tuesday evening that Omar Minaya, the general manager, repeated his suggested Mets mantra: "One-trip away," he said. "One-trip away. We're one good trip away from getting it going."
Minaya's words were almost a plea for a team that suffers more the farther it ventures from home. But alas, he spoke them in the visitor's dugout, a continent away from Shea Stadium. And the Mets hardly felt at home against a newly forged alliance -- PETCO Park and Chan Ho Park. The home of the Padres didn't do for Pedro Martinez what it does for most pitchers, and the Padres' new pitcher prospered there in his first home start since being traded by the Rangers.
The result was an 8-3 Mets loss and another reminder of how the road has undermined the team's season. Martinez was battered by the Padres in five innings, his shortest workday of the season, and the Mets lost for the 32nd time in 53 games away from Shea. The loss was the Mets' third in Martinez's last three starts, their 10th in his 23 starts and their eighth in 10 games played West of the Central Time Zone.
The Mets have been "out here" three times now, and they have lost the first game each time. The similarities of each trip suffocate their hope.
"I was hoping to change all that tonight," Martinez said. "[It's] too bad I couldn't. Now, someone else has to."
Martinez didn't come close, allowing five runs and nine hits, equaling his season highs in both categories. He has surrendered eight or nine hits in four of his last seven starts after having done so in just one of his first 16. That is an unsettling trend. But the Mets' inability to win when Martinez starts is worse -- more damaging to a team with aspirations and 12 more games in this time zone and three in St. Louis.
"You want to be able to get Pedro's games -- wherever they are -- and then go from there," manager Willie Randolph said.
Among the Padres' hits against Martinez (12-4) were solo home runs by Khalil Greene in the second inning and Brian Giles in the fifth. The Padres scored three times in the third when Martinez allowed more runs than he had in 13 of his starts.
"Everybody has an off-day -- today was mine," Martinez said."
He acknowledged his pitches were "up," uncharacteristically so.
"But I thought I had a little pop behind them," he said. "But when I fell behind, they didn't let me get away. It was just one of those nights. They seemed to be locked in."
"He does," Randolph said, "every once in a while, give it up."
With Martinez less than normal and their outfield playing sloppily, the game was in jeopardy almost from the outset. And the Mets didn't score against Park (1-0 in the National League and 9-5 overall) until there were two outs in the sixth, his final inning. Miguel Cairo and Cliff Floyd drove in the runs, with Floyd's single prompting Park's removal. Marlon Anderson's bloop single, his 17th hit in 39 pinch-hit at-bats, drove in the Mets' third run, in the seventh against Scot Linenbrink.
The Mets had eight hits, six against Park, one -- a pinch-hit single -- by a returning Kaz Matsui and none in four at-bats by Jose Reyes. His hitting streak, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues and a career best, ended at 20 games. Reyes can start another on Wednesday, when the Mets will face right-hander Brian Lawrence.
The highlight of the evening for the Mets was the startling, barehand catch David Wright made in shallow left field in the seventh inning to take a bloop hit away from Brian Giles. With the bases empty, Giles lofted a soft fly to the opposite field, and Wright caught the ball with the opposite hand.
"I told him, 'Go play defense without your glove,'" Doug Mientkiewicz said. "'You'll probably do a better job.'"
Wright made the catch some 20 feet onto the outfield grass for the second out of the inning, prompting prolonged and loud applause from a sellout crowd. A dive into the stands in Seattle in June had earned him an ovation as well.
"This one was better," Wright said. "I didn't get bruises up and down my body.
"It was over my right shoulder. I couldn't reach it with my glove, so I took a stab at it."
The Mets enjoyed the catch, with one proviso.
"We could have really blown it up if we'd won," Floyd said. "Great catch. He'll probably get an ESPY for it. But you know what that does, it makes the guy who hit it play harder. He's ticked. You hit a ball like that, and you know you've got a knock out of it. Now, Giles is going to make sure D-Wright loses one, too."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.