NEW YORK -- September has not been a kind month to the Mets these last few years, and even though they've fallen out of contention in 2009, the regular season's final month has remained painful.
Entering Saturday's game with the Nationals at Citi Field, the Mets are just 4-13 in September this season. It's a far worse record for the month than the team had in either of its past two Septembers during their much-ballyhooed collapses in the National League East. The Mets were 13-12 in 2008 and 14-14 in 2007.
After Friday's 6-5 loss to Washington, the Mets have dropped six straight games and 10 of 11. Even during that stretch, they've remained largely competitive: Four of the six losses in the last week have been by a single run.
"We need a win bad just to move throughout the end of the season," manager Jerry Manuel said. "You need to feel the effort you're putting in can translate into something positive."
The Mets' lone win in their past 11 games was a come-from-behind 10-9 victory over the Phillies on Sept. 12. New York scored five times in the final two innings to stun division-leading Philadelphia.
That late-inning resolve was again on display on Friday, when the Mets scored three times in the ninth before falling a run short against the Nationals. The Mets had the tying and winning runs in scoring position when Jeff Francoeur's sharp ground ball was nabbed by Nats closer Mike MacDougal.
"It was so frustrating," Francoeur said after the loss. "It'd have been so big for us to have that ball get to the outfield to win this game. But that's not the way it goes."
It certainly hasn't been the way it's gone for the Mets this month. The Mets have struggled as Manuel has tried to balance between playing to win and developing some younger players, such as catcher Josh Thole. Of course, it's easier to play rookies when they're hitting .355, as Thole is.
"We go out to win every game. You have to approach every game as a situation where you have to win the game," Manuel said. "Development becomes a part of that situation. As far as anything tangible, it's still trying to win the game."
During the final two weeks of the season, the Mets will continue to evaluate developing players such as Thole, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and the rehabilitating John Maine. While Manuel has warned against basing evaluations on a player's performance during what is otherwise meaningless baseball, he is happy to see the type of resolve the Mets have displayed this month.
"That's a whole different trait to evaluate at this time of year," Manuel said. "The effort is always important."
But in the end, the effort hasn't been enough for the Mets lately. And Manuel channeled former NFL coach Herman Edwards before Friday's game when talking about his team's goals.
"When you compete, you still want to win," he said. "You compete to win."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.