Every once in a while, though, the Mets drop a game that they might have lost with a healthy Jose Reyes, with a vibrant Carlos Delgado, perhaps even with a bit of '69 or '86 mojo. Tuesday was one of those games.
In their first regular-season meeting with Braves Rookie of the Year candidate Tommy Hanson, the Mets mustered just four hits in total -- three in seven innings off Hanson -- and no runs in a 6-0 loss to the Braves. The defeat had little to do with the skills or efforts of the Mets, and everything to do with the kid.
"He looks like a very good young pitcher," said manager Jerry Manuel, whose Mets had previously seen Hanson only in Spring Training. "They'll probably be battling with him for a long, long time here in this division."
Tuesday, though, was hardly a battle. The Mets went down quickly and silently against Hanson, who retired the first four batters he faced and who never allowed a baserunner past second. David Wright and Carlos Beltran -- the missing ingredients for so much of this season -- finished 0-for-6 with two strikeouts and two walks. Jeff Francoeur, whose time with the Braves gave him at least some exposure to Hanson, was 0-for-4.
Only Daniel Murphy, a .260 hitter on the season, seemed to solve Hanson, finishing 2-for-4 with a single and a double and -- perhaps more impressively -- joining Beltran and Luis Castillo as the only Mets not to strike out.
"Murphy's a good hitter, and Murph makes adjustments," Manuel said. "He puts the bat on the ball for the most part, and he has a pretty good idea of what he's going to do. I think he, in going in, had a pretty good plan against [Hanson]. And for him, when he's swinging the bat well, he usually hits anybody."
Murphy, not far removed from being a rookie himself, recalled facing Hanson when he was putting up video game numbers last year in the Arizona Fall League.
Little, it seems, has changed.
"The guy's got good stuff," Murphy said. "When you've got good stuff, you've got good stuff."
Pat Misch's stuff is not quite so sharp -- and facing Hanson, his margin for error was even smaller than usual. Though Misch could not have imagined that the solo home run he allowed to Adam LaRoche in the second inning would have lost him the game, that is indeed what happened.
As far as records go, the Mets are in a worse position than the Braves -- though in effect, both rivals right now can consider themselves equals. Barring a miracle Braves run late in the season, neither team will be playing in October -- making September a time to evaluate and look forward.
The Braves, on this night, were able to enjoy that painful process more than the Mets.
"I think there's absolutely nothing to lose right now," said LaRoche, who added a second homer off Elmer Dessens later in the game, finishing 4-for-4 with two homers and two doubles. "There's zero pressure on us. We're in a bad position and everybody is just going out and doing their thing. Gosh, it makes it easy when all you have to do is score one or two runs a night to win a ballgame."
On their own side, the Mets saw Misch, a pitcher who may or may not fit into their plans for next year. They saw an offense that is growing more complete but that still lacks thump, and they saw a trio of relief pitchers -- Dessens, Ken Takahashi and Brian Stokes -- of varying importance.
The Braves, meanwhile, watched Hanson -- at 23 years old, the owner of 10 wins in his first 18 big league starts -- snap off curveballs behind in the count and toss diving changeups in the zone. Their future, at least once every five days, looks bright.
"When a guy gets behind in the count and can go to off-speed pitches, for a young guy, that's a good trait," Manuel said. "That's a sign of not only good stuff, but instincts, as well."
"He's been throwing the ball real well, and he did again tonight," Misch said.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.