That was the impression they made on Tuesday during 18 uninspired innings at Turner Field. After scoring 18 runs in two Interleague engagements, the Mets resumed competition in their own division and, for the first time after nine games, against an opponent not in last place. And they scored three runs, a total insufficient to win either game in the day-night doubleheader against the Braves. And so, on the day Mike Piazza retired, his characterization of Turner Field, as it applied to the Mets of 10 years earlier, was once again apropos -- "Death Valley for us."
Death by doubleheader is hardly an unfamiliar term to the Mets. Some of the ugliest days in their history have brought two losses. This one -- by scores of 6-1 and 6-2 -- was particularly unbecoming and damaging though, because it followed what they thought was a reversal of fortunes, because their offense performed poorly against Tom Glavine in the first game and the likes of Jorge Campillo in the second, because their bullpen -- namely Aaron Heilman and Matt Wise -- eliminated any legitimate chances for victory by allowing late two-run home runs and because, on the day's final play, Ryan Church suffered a mild concussion in a slide at second base.
Adding injury to insult, the miseries mount. Pedro Martinez is due back, but now Church is likely to miss time. There's no such thing as a mild concussion less than three months after another concussion. And Mets manager Willie Randolph now has an issue, self-made, that will tug at him -- remarks that raised eyebrows and specter of race.
All of it made for a long and all-around disquieting day and the need for a Lifesaver -- or a roll or two. The hush of the clubhouse after the second game suggested others besides Church needed an aspirin -- or a roll or two. The Mets took this one hard because they knew how it looked and knew that it felt worse than it looked.
"We were terrible today," David Wright said at a level that stabbed the hush. "It's mediocrity. It's unacceptable to want to win a division and not ride the momentum we had coming in. We have to do a better job [at] playing with fire. ... We had all the momentum in the world and couldn't do anything with it."
If the Mets played with fire, it had no discernible flame. In each loss, they produced a sequence of innings without a semblance of offense. After scoring in the first inning of the first game, they produced 12 other innings without a base runner and 16 without an authentic challenge. With neither John Maine nor Claudio Vargas performing well in his role as starting pitcher, the Mets were like an NBA playoff team on the road. And because the Braves are the most formidable home team in the game -- their record at Turner is now 18-5 -- the Mets' day assumed a certain Knicks-like quality.
Until a two-out walk to Carlos Delgado and successive hits by Ramon Castro, Moises Alou and Jose Reyes produced two runs in the eighth inning of the second game, the Mets had produced 15 strikeouts, nine hits -- one for extra bases -- and one walk in 57 plate appearances. That two-run outburst against Blaine Boyer was followed by an offsetting, two-run home by Mark Kotsay against Wise and final inning of modest resistance that made Kotsay's home run even more vexing.
Wise bent at the waist with his hands in his knees as the Braves' lead increased to four runs.
"I wanted to throw up," Wise said. "It was my job to put a zero."
In the first game, it was Heilman who had similar sentiments eat at him. He had surrendered a two-run home run to Brian McCann in the seventh. But would 4-1 and 4-2 losses hurt less? Probably not.
On Tuesday, it was the hitting and the bullpen, not that Maine and Vargas were all that good. Who knows what Wednesday night will bring with Church, clearly the team's best player thus far, likely to be unavailable? The Mets have been unable to pick each other up when at closer to full strength.
"We have to guard against over-reacting," Randolph said.
They also need to protect against under-producing and over-anxiousness. The Mets drew two walks in 18 innings, four days after the team meeting during which impatience was emphasized.
Losing to Glavine wasn't nearly so disturbing as losing to Campillo, no matter how well he threw in his second big league start and his first since 2005. That one ended after one inning when his right elbow betrayed him. This one ended after six innings. He walked none, allowed three hits -- all singles -- and struck out seven.
He was unfamiliar, but as Wright pointed out, "We had videos on him, we had scouting reports. We have an offense."
But not one that shows up each game. The Mets have scored three runs in their last three games which didn't come against the Yankees. And medical folks tell us that relapse often times is worse than the initial illness.
"We still can win two games in the series. But we have to play a better game tomorrow," Jose Reyes said.
And no one argued that point with him.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.