Mets morning briefing 5.22.12

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a communications gaffe on an eighth-inning fly ball, resulting in a three-base error, and Clint Barmes followed with a game-deciding sacrifice fly as the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Mets, 5-4, Monday at PNC Park.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was Pittsburgh's biggest come-from-behind victory since June 1, 2009, also against the Mets -- when a five-run lead for the Amazin's turned into an 8-5 loss that included five straight batters reaching against J.J. Putz in a five-run eighth. Putz made only one more appearance as a Met, also in that series, before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery.

The Pirates' string of 160 straight games trailing by four-plus runs without a comeback victory was the second-longest in MLB history, according to Elias. Only the the Washington Senators, who had 178 straight losses when they trailed by four-plus runs from 1906 to 1910, had a longer drought.

Tuesday's news reports:

Johan Santana could not hold a four-run lead. He surrendered a game-tying two-run homer to No. 8 hitter Michael McKenry in the seventh. His record stands at 1-2 after nine starts this season.

• Read game recaps in the Post, Record, Star-Ledger, Newsday, Times and Daily News.

Josh Thole and Jason Bay have headed to Florida to ramp up activity, while Ruben Tejada could be the first of trio to return from the disabled list -- as soon as next weekend. Thole, cleared for baseball activities two weeks after suffering a concussion, is aiming to appear in a minor league game for the first time May 28. Tejada (quadriceps) has been running in Port St. Lucie. He could be in a minor league rehab game as soon as Wednesday. Bay (fractured rib) is due to start taking batting practice from coaches that day, and soon thereafter may advance to minor league action, initially as a DH. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

Andres Torres is 1-for-his-last-29. Terry Collins plans to sit him Tuesday and start Nieuwenhuis in center, with Baxter in left field.

Ike Davis sat against another left-hander, Erik Bedard, but entered Monday for defense in the sixth inning and eventually struck out in both of his ensuing at-bats. Davis is now hitting .161. A demotion may be looming, potentially coinciding with the return of a player from the DL. Collins met with Davis in the visiting manager's office at PNC Park before Monday's game. Read more in the Journal, Post, Newsday, Times and Daily News.

Vinny Rottino rejoined the Mets on Monday from Triple-A Buffalo and made his first major league start at first base. Chris Schwinden was optioned back to the Bisons. With Miguel Batista landing on the DL, Jeremy Hefner has been confirmed as Thursday's starter against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field.

Terry Collins expressed appreciation for umpire Brian Knight acknowledging missing Saturday night's call, when Baxter was ruled out at second base in Toronto.

Michael Salfino in the Journal tries to reconcile the Mets' winning record with their run differential. He notes a few lopsided losses skew the results somewhat, but counters that the Mets have been outslugged with homers by a wide margin. Writes Salfino:

In the standings, they look like a contender. Entering Monday, they were a surprising 22-19. But on the stat sheet -- and we're not talking doctorate-level statistics here -- they look overmatched. They've been outscored by 31 runs, the fifth-worst mark in baseball. Even the 15-25 Colorado Rockies (minus-27) have been better. The Mets are on pace to finish 87-75 while being outscored by 122 runs. This would be a rather historic achievement: All-time, the worst run differential by a winning team belonged to the 1905 Detroit Tigers (minus-90), who went 79-74. The Mets' current record is about five games better than what's expected from a team with that poor of a run differential, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

• Salfino also notes in the Journal that the Mets bullpen has protected leads for R.A. Dickey remarkably well -- in 21 of 22 games in which the knuckleballer has left in a position to win during his Mets career. According to the article, the bullpen has failed to hold 14 of 50 potential wins for Santana during his Mets career.

• Pitching coach Dan Warthen wants Jon Niese to prepare more for unfamiliar opponents, Mike Puma writes in the Post. "He’s had a couple of poor games against teams he doesn’t know very well,” Warthen told Puma. “A couple of us talked to him the other day and told him he could do a little bit better with the studying of hitters.”

TRIVIA: Who holds the record for career runs scored in a Mets uniform?

Monday's answer: The yellow bridge spanning the Allegheny River adjacent to PNC Park is named for the late Roberto Clemente.