Mets look as depleted as they are

Mets look as depleted as they are

NEW YORK -- Now we see the talent deficit in this intracity confrontation for what it is, nothing less than staggering. Now we understand that all the Mets' talk of demonstrating resolve and resilience and hanging on until the return of the muscle can't get it done when the disparity in talent is so great. Now, after Saturday's 5-0 loss, it's undeniable; for now, the Mets are have-nots, the Yankees are have-lots. And the difference manifests when the two share a field.

Consider the scores of their three most recent games -- Yankees 15, Mets 0 on June 14; Yankees 9, Mets 1 on Friday; and then Saturday's five-run defeat in their fifth Interleague meeting this month. Understand that the combined score, 29-1, is not that far from an accurate measure of how the Mets stand against the Yankees, against any team with talent and a disabled list shorter than War and Peace. Understand that the Yankees winning on a combined one-hitter was not far-fetched before A.J. Burnett threw his first pitch. And when it happened, it wasn't an aberration so much as it was an indication.

The Mets won't argue the point.

"We know how it is," Alex Cora said during the hushed postmortems in the Mets' clubhouse on Saturday. "Today is the first day I think it kind of hit us a little, to be honest."

Cora's was a softly worded acknowledgment that the Mets see the disparity and know the score. He paused, recalled how the Mets had won three of their four games against the first-place Cardinals before the Yankees took over the Citi and said, "We win [Sunday], and we'll have a pretty good week."

That can't be disputed, either. Given what the Mets have and lack, winning four of seven games in a week against two superior opponents would qualify as achievement, even if the losses are lopsided and some victories are squeaky.

The loss on Saturday night was more lopsided than the five-run differential suggests. If not for Cora, the man least likely, the Mets would have endured an indignity beyond simple defeat. Cora dropped a single into right-center field leading off the sixth inning. Otherwise, the sequence of zeroes to the right of the word Mets on the scoreboard would have been one longer and uninterrupted.

"No matter how many guys are on the DL, no one wants to get no-hit," one of the Mets' pitchers said, trying not to insult his comrades. He understood, too.

The Replace-Mets were no match for Burnett.

"Blame it on me -- it must be me," Cora said facetiously. "Every time I've played against him since 2004, he's had great stuff."

Before the single, Cora was hitless in 21 career at-bats against Burnett.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel suggested that Burnett (6-4) had snappier stuff when he held the Mets scoreless on four hits for seven innings in the Bronx 13 days earlier. The Yankees right-hander was pretty snappy in this one, too. He walked three and struck out 10 in seven innings, and his handsome performance followed by 24 hours the dominant performance of CC Sabathia on Friday night, when the lefty allowed three hits and one run in seven innings.

"There has to be a period where we'll struggle offensively," Manuel said. "You can struggle offensively even with your main guys, so when you struggle offensively with your other group, then there's a lot of questions that we have to answer and we have to be responsible for. We have to weigh that, but there have been times where we've had core players in the game and have struggled offensively."

It should be noted that Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo were in the lineup against Burnett during his first start against the Mets this season. Their places were taken by Jeremy Reed and Argenis Reyes on Saturday.

"There's not too much you're going to do offensively when you run into two outings like that," David Wright said.

But to hear Cora, it is the defused state of the Mets' batting order that allows pitchers to try to dominate in the first place.

"[Burnett] pounded the strike zone -- you can do that against is us now," Cora said.

He noted how the dimensions of Citi Field and the absence of power in the Mets' batting order allow pitchers to exploit them.

"When Chan Ho [Park] faced us in Philly, he nibbled, nibbled, nibbled," Cora said. "When he faced us here, he pounded the strike zone. ... I'm not getting on anyone, but right now, in this place, we don't have the kind of lineup that's going to make a pitcher think twice about challenging hitters."

Manuel's assessment of Burnett seemingly reinforces Cora's theory; Burnett didn't need to be as effective at Citi Field. The spacious ballpark helped his defense.

Losing pitcher Tim Redding tried to use the ballpark, too. It didn't work.

"The way you've got to pitch in this ballpark is get beat to center or [with hitters trying to go] the other way. And for some reason, tonight they stepped into it or stroked the ball well to get it out to left-center twice."

Redding (1-3) surrendered home runs to two switch-hitters, both batting left-handed and hitting pitches over the left-center-field wall. Nick Swisher hit his 14th with the bases empty in the second inning. Jorge Posada hit his 10th, with two runners on base, to complete a four-run rally in the sixth and prompt Redding's removal.

"That late in the game, our game plan is to get beat the other way or to center field," Redding said. "There's really nothing else we could think of that we could have done differently."

Interesting -- isn't it? -- that Posada's home run was the fifth hit to the opposite field at Citi Field. All have been hit by Mets opponents -- Swisher on Saturday night and Alex Rodriguez on Friday night, preceded by the Nationals' Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn.

Saturday's five-run margin appeared insurmountable to the Mets, who have had runners reach base in only four of 18 innings this series. And what they had done for five innings -- remain hitless with three walks -- was hardly encouraging for them.

The hitless first five innings were the latest variation on a theme. The Mets were without a baserunner in the first four innings against Sabathia on Friday night, they were hitless in the first three against the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter on Thursday and they had one hit in the first five innings against Joel Pineiro on Tuesday.

And now, the Mets are to face Chien-Ming Wang, who has had his share of unrewarding appearances and no victories. And what if he pounds the strke zone on Sunday night after the Mets have faced Carpenter, Sabathia and Burnett?

"It can only get easier," catcher Brian Schneider said. "I guess."

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