Misfortune strikes Mets in loss to Phils

Misfortune strikes in Mets' loss

NEW YORK -- Adversity has been an infrequent visitor in the Mets' clubhouse during the Willie Randolph administration. It usually has walked in one door and out another and rarely stepped on the field. Now, though, it may have its own locker. Indeed, it may have its choice of lockers when the team returns Thursday afternoon. Chances are Endy Chavez won't need his clubhouse quarters any more than Moises Alou and Shawn Green have needed theirs of late.

And there still may some vacancies for angst and frustration, too.

The Mets' season, a relatively smooth ride for two months, has struck a series of potholes in the recent weeks. Multiple games and outfielders have been lost. And none of the losses of either type has been more unsettling than those endured Wednesday night. First, Chavez went down with a torn left hamstring that is likely to cost the Mets their most valuable reserve for weeks. And shortly thereafter, the Mets went down as well.

Done in by a three-run home run Jimmy Rollins hit off Aaron Heilman in the seventh inning, the Mets lost a game, 4-2, to the Phillies. And in losing a third straight game, the Mets lost a distinction as well. Every other team in the Majors had lost three straight games before Wednesday.

"I guess we had some catching up to do," one of the Mets said in pointed gallows humor seldom heard in the Mets environment.

They still have the most victories and the fewest losses in the National League and a reasonably tight, early June hold on first place in the National League East standings. But their glass clearly is half empty at this juncture. Their disabled list is as long as their faces were after their fifth defeat in seven games. And unprompted denials -- never a good sign -- have begun.

"I don't think anyone has said, 'Uh oh, we're in a tailspin,'" Heilman said in a mostly hushed clubhouse. "You start thinking about three straight losses, you start playing not to lose. That's when losing streaks happen."

It was some five hours earlier when Randolph had noted he had sensed a certain discomfort in the Mets' clubhouse Tuesday night and that he was pleased by what he recognized. A second straight loss hardly was the basis for concern, but it did leave the Mets a bit chafed. And, Randolph said, "It's a good thing when a couple of losses don't feel right."

Almost nothing felt right as the players departed Wednesday. Chavez couldn't bear weight on his left leg. He tore the hamstring trying to beat out a double-play grounder in the seventh inning. He was helped from the field.

"He's so important to us," David Wright said. "And we're already thin out there [in the outfield]."

Green and Alou are assigned to the disabled list. Carlos Beltran says his quads still are balky. Damion Easley couldn't play the outfield Wednesday night because of pain in his right knee.

Chavez, 29, said he never had suffered a hamstring injury, a common malady for players who rely on speed."I used to joke with the guys all the time about it," he said. "I said I didn't have a hamstring. Now I know I do."

The grabbing and painful sensation convinced him. He said he was "surprised and scared" when the muscle tore. An MRI Thursday will tell him the severity of the injury and suggest a prognosis.

"He's such a sparkplug for us. He's hard to replace," Heilman said. "He's not just a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. He gives us that spark and a little bit of. . yeah, chutzpah." The double play Chavez couldn't avoid -- the third executed by the Phillies -- came with the bases loaded and one out, defusing the final thrust of the Mets' recently-quiet offense. They have scored fewer than three runs five times in seven games and lost each of the five games. Indeed, since May 13, the Mets have won all 14 games in which they have scored three or more runs and lost all nine in which they have scored fewer than three.

The Mets almost scored before the double play when pinch-hitter Juilio Franco, batting with runners on second and third, hit a ground ball that first baseman Ryan Howard dove to stop. Ruben Gotay, the over-cautious runner on third, didn't try to score. Chavez's damaging double play followed an intentional walk to Jose Reyes.

The offense, not the pitching, has been the primary cause of the Mets' recent shortfall.

Wasted on Thursday were six scoreless innings by Orlando Hernandez, who has allowed no runs in three of his four most recent starts and has allowed opposing teams to score -- a total of four runs, three earned -- in only two of his last 33 innings.

El Duque departed with a two-run lead intact, the result of a home run by Carlos Beltran hit off winning pitcher Adam Eaton in the fourth inning and another run, scored by Chavez, in the sixth. Eaton (6-4) has beaten the Mets twice this season and five times in five starts in his career.

Hernandez's brilliance was offset by Heilman, who took his third loss in five decisions. He allowed a leadoff walk to Aaron Rowand and a single by Edwin Nunez before a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout of pinch-hitter Pat Burrell moved him within an out of safety. But Rollins hit his 17th career home run -- his third this season -- against the Mets on a 1-2 pitch. It was the third home run against Heilman in what now is 27 1/3 innings.

"If I execute a pitch, it's a pop up," Heilman said. "It's very tough. It's a shame to let a start like that go unrewarded. If, somehow, I manage to pitch a clean inning there, we have a real chance to win it."

Heilman's last two pitches to Rollins were changeups, the second "right down the middle. . .It leaked back over the plate," Heilman said. "I wanted him to make contact. Let the defense handle it."

"It's hard to defend a three-run home run," Heilman added.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.