On a night that veteran outfielder Moises Alou tied the Mets' single-season hitting streak by recording a hit in his 24th straight game, the visitors tried mightily to muster a happy ending of their own. Instead, with the loss their recent miseries came more into view.
The Mets had hoped that their 8-4 victory over the Nationals on Wednesday night would signal a momentum shift after five straight losses and six in seven games. But the chilling result was that their lead in the National League East shrunk to a vulnerable 1 1/2 games over the Phillies, who beat the Nationals, 7-6.
The Mets saw the NL East cellar-dwelling Marlins rally for four runs in the fifth inning, then came back for four in the ninth to take a 7-4 lead, three of them on Marlon Anderson's dramatic double. The Marlins tied it in their half of the ninth as the absence of Wagner proved costly.
Then suddenly it was over in the 10th. Dan Uggla's double off the left-center-field wall off Jorge Sosa -- who had pitched two innings Wednesday night -- saddled the Mets with their worst-case scenario.
"We let one slip away tonight," manager Willie Randolph said. "Tough loss. We've had tough losses before and we fought back. Got to stay strong, be tough. Got to get 'em back."
Over the first four innings Thursday night, the Mets appeared on their way to an easy victory. A two-run first inning, fueled by Alou's double to left, started it. They added a run in the third on doubles by Jose Reyes and David Wright.
Meanwhile, Glavine had Florida's hitters mostly off-stride with a variety of offspeed pitches.
But the complexion of the game changed in the fifth. The Marlins managed five straight hits off Glavine -- and six in seven at-bats -- in scoring four runs. It could have been worse if Hanley Ramirez, who had doubled, wasn't caught trying to steal third with the Marlins trailing, 3-1.
On the flip side, Glavine might have escaped relatively unscathed had not Miguel Cabrera connected for a three-run home run near inning's end. Even so, his final line did not look very efficient: 11 hits, a walk and four runs in five innings.
After the Mets scored four runs in the ninth, helped by Anderson's bases-clearing double and a run-producing single by Carlos Beltran, it seemed natural for some of them to believe they had done enough to win.
"I was saying, 'Well, we got this one,'" Beltran said. "But we didn't. They came back."
|With a first-inning double on Thursday night, Moises Alou has recorded a hit in a franchise-tying single-season 24 straight games. He is two hits away from tying the longest hitting streak in club history.|
|David Wright||26||Sept. 17, 2006-April 20, 2007|
|Moises Alou||24||Aug. 23-Sept. 20, 2007|
|Hubie Brooks||24||May 1-June 1, 1984|
|Mike Piazza||24||May 25-June 22, 1999|
|Cleon Jones||23||Aug. 25-Sept. 25, 1970|
|John Olerud||23||July 19-Aug. 9, 1998|
|Mike Vail||23||Aug. 22-Sept. 15, 1975|
|Mike Piazza||21||June 7-July 3, 2000|
Standing in center field as the Marlins rallied for the second time, Beltran said he thought about what has been happening lately to the Mets, with one of the problems a faltering bullpen.
"Every team gets back on us real easy, it seems like," Beltran said.
Glavine, a baseball wise man for the ages, said the Mets absolutely can not let this loss become a lingering hangover.
"I don't think it's going to happen overnight," he said, "but the bottom line is, by the time we get here tomorrow, we can't worry about what happened tonight. We've got to think about [Friday] night's game."
Yet even he has been shaking his head at the variety of ways the Mets have been finding to lose.
"We've lost every which way," he said. "You watch the things happen, and you just can't believe you're seeing 'em. It seems like every thing that you can have go wrong has gone wrong. That's all part of the equation when you get in a prolonged slump, or have a difficult year."
Wagner's unavailability triggered Thursday night's loss, but the game had other twists as well.
Outfielder Lastings Milledge had to be restrained by coaches Rickey Henderson and Jerry Manuel in the seventh inning after home-plate umpire Jim Joyce ejected him for arguing. Randolph called it a "classic example" of a player being upset at an umpire. Milledge said afterward he was too upset to talk.
Anderson replaced him, which turned out to be a good thing for the Mets.
Warming up in the eighth inning, Aaron Heilman was hit on the left wrist by a baseball thrown from the stands (a fan was later ejected). Heilman said it surprised him, but said his wrist appeared to be fine.
Second baseman Luis Castillo was announced into the lineup, but became a late scratch after feeling soreness in his right knee. Castillo said much of the soreness came during the team plane ride from Washington, D.C., and he expected to play Friday night.
Lost in the trauma of such a significant loss was the record set by Alou, who has the longest hitting streak in the NL this season. He tied Mike Piazza and Hubie Brooks for the one-season Mets streak.