"Right now," said Manuel, at that point the manager of a club that had four wins in its past five games, "we're still a sub-.500 team that happened to hit a hot streak."
Now, after their 3-2 loss to the D-backs on Friday, Manuel's Mets have four wins in their past six games -- but none in their past two. They have halved the progress that they made earlier this week against the Rockies, losing two straight after winning their previous four. And on a day in which they stood pat at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Mets made it seem unlikely that they can win as they currently are.
Against one of the five National League teams that have an inferior record to their own, the Mets did quite a few things right. Livan Hernandez pitched as well as the Mets could have hoped, his outing abbreviated not by struggles but by strategy. David Wright hit his first home run at Citi Field in nearly two months, showing much of the power that he has recently lacked.
But still the Mets were undone by the D-backs, in a fashion typical of this season. It's never the same, but it's often bizarre.
And so it was anything but surprising when Sean Green allowed the winning run to score on a wild pitch in the eighth. It was simply another way to lose.
"It's a tough game to be consistent at," Wright said. "The great teams are the teams that seem to have that consistency. With us, we've kind of been high, been low, been high, been low. We haven't quite been able to find that middle ground where we obtain that consistency."
The lone element of surprise came from the fact that moments earlier, Green had almost completely wriggled his way out of a jam. After he and Pedro Feliciano loaded the bases on a hit, a walk and a hit batsman with no outs, Green induced a sharp ground ball off the bat of Miguel Montero.
Fielding it at first base, Daniel Murphy fired home to start a critical double play -- though moments later it would hardly matter.
"There's really no chance for it not to be a double play unless they don't execute," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "I wasn't very thrilled with it, but they made a critical mistake and didn't execute on the ball in the dirt, and we were fortunate enough to score."
That ball in the dirt was Green's next pitch, a fastball that bounced well in front of catcher Omir Santos. Justin Upton raced home with the winning run, and the Mets could do no damage off Arizona closer Chad Qualls.
Four straight wins had melted into two straight losses, just like that.
"I had pretty poor command from the first batter throughout that inning," Green said. "I put myself in a situation to get us out of it, and I end up throwing a fastball in the dirt. My command was subpar tonight, to say the least."
Yet the Mets had also put themselves in a position to take Green out of the equation. Loading the bases with two outs in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game, they had a chance to take their first lead with the pitcher's spot due up.
Rather than allow Hernandez to hit, Manuel summoned pinch-hitter Angel Berroa, who actually entered the game with a lower batting average (.125) this season than Hernandez (.143), who had thrown just 81 pitches and who has a reputation as one of the game's best-hitting starters.
Berroa bounced the first pitch he saw to shortstop for an inning-ending forceout, and the Mets did not threaten again.
"It's their decision to make," Hernandez said. "I can do nothing about it. It was the bases loaded. It was a good chance to score a couple of runs, but it didn't happen. I don't like to come out of the game. "
"I thought we had a shot there" is how Manuel explained his decision. "Those opportunities, they haven't come around often during the course of the game."
The immediate effect of the decision was that it shortened the night for Hernandez, who allowed just two runs in six innings -- his third straight effective outing. But Doug Davis, a left-handed "mirror image" of Hernandez, according to Wright, pitched just as well. Other than Wright's home run in the sixth -- his first at home since June 9 -- and Murphy's solo shot in the second, the Mets could achieve little off Davis.
And so they left Citi Field a full seven games out of the National League Wild Card lead, only a half-game better off than they were before this week's winning streak. And they left without any sort of Trade Deadline deal.
On this night they were the same club, with the same frustrations -- and the same result.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less