Offensive woes continue in Mets' loss

Offensive woes continue in Mets' loss

NEW YORK -- In the hours before the Mets engaged the Dodgers on Tuesday, their general manager said -- or warned -- that help was not necessarily on the way. The return of the club's many wounded, Omar Minaya indicated, probably will happen later rather than sooner. And he had no real sense of when later might arrive.

Unsaid was that the Mets' season is likely to become bleaker sooner and, perhaps, later as well. More indications of an ominous future developed soon after the first inning Tuesday night, and they continued to form until the Dodgers had overwhelmed their flat-line opponent. Throughout their 8-0 victory, the Dodgers demonstrated why they own the best record in the game. And the Mets used the same nine innings to show what their record doesn't necessarily indicate -- that they are troubled, lifeless and, for the time being, almost incapable of competing with the better teams.

"The way we're playing, no question, there's a difference," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said in an impromptu episode of "To Tell the Truth." The game had provided truth after truth, proof after proof. Who was he to deny it?

The Dodgers scored early and often in this one, and the Mets began the second half of their season as they had ended the first, meekly, weakly and without a run. They haven't scored in 22 innings, haven't had an extra-base hit in 29. And, beginning with their loss to the Phillies on Saturday, they have scored one run and have more strikeouts (21) than total bases (14).

They totaled four hits and two walks against left-hander Clayton Kershaw (6-5) and his three successors, increasing their hit total for the last four games to 22. They struck out eight times. They twice had a runner reach base, leading off an inning. In both instances, a double play followed.

Moreover, their starting pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, threw 65 pitches in the first two innings, allowing three runs in the process, and retired none of the three batters in the fourth before his removal. He was charged with five runs, four of them earned, and took his fourth loss in 10 decisions. The Mets have lost four of his past five starts.

They committed one error, but were guilty of no grand misplays as they had been over the weekend. Still, they were steamrolled. "It's simple. You don't pitch, you don't hit, you don't play defense, you don't win," was the equation third baseman David Wight cited.

So now the Mets have lost four consecutive games and put their record four games under .500 for the first time since September 2005. And now they're fourth-place team, a team in need of an elixir and something new and motivational. Chances are, there will be no new personnel.

For those with long memories, this one came right out of the Mets' summer 30 years ago. The 1979 Mets often went meekly and weakly into the night. Their manager then was in the third-base dugout on Tuesday, trying to ignore the similarities.

"I've been managing long enough, you get a club that's lost a number of games in a row, you just chip away at confidence," Joe Torre said. "That's something they're gonna fight through. They've had their share and more of injuries to key people. That's something that's tough to make up for. You lose your center fielder, your first baseman and your shortstop ... those are key positions offensively and defensively.

"They just started to get injured when we saw them in L.A. [Jose Reyes hasn't played since May 20 when the Mets were in Los Angeles]. You lose your legs and your catalyst. They're a skeleton of what they thought they'd be. And that puts pressure on the other players, like David Wright. That makes it tougher. You lose a game, you lose confidence, and then you start waiting for something to go wrong."

That wait lasted until the second inning, when Pelfrey (6-4) allowed three hits, two walks and three runs. A two-out walk to Rafael Furcal loaded the base and the ensuing walk to Orlando Hudson forced in the first run. Manny Ramirez's broken-bat bloop to center scored the other two. Weeks ago, when Carlos Beltran still was playing, Manuel characterized a three-run deficit as seemingly insurmountable. What is it now with the more-diluted lineup? Gary Sheffield, the Mets' cleanup hitter, has 10 home runs; so does Matt Kemp, the Dodgers' No. 8 hitter.

Another comparison: Blake DeWitt, the first pinch-hitter Torre deployed, hit a home run. The Mets' first pinch-hitter was Argenis Reyes, who struck out looking. Later, he was assigned to the Minor Leagues to create a roster spot for Oliver Perez, the Mets' starter Wednesday night.

Ramirez drove in another run in the fourth when the Dodgers scored twice. He was called out on strikes in the first and fifth innings, and ejected by plate umpire John Hirschbeck after throwing equipment following the second strikeout.

Ramirez was jeered before and during his five innings. And little else struck a the humbled masses to boo, not even the last out of lopsided and unbecoming defeat. The Mets haven't reached the stage yet. But on this early July evening, Citi Field had grown indifferent as if it accepted the loss. And as the Mets remind us, it's still early.

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