- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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WASHINGTON -- David Wright and Jason Bay (yes, Jason Bay) had solo homers in the ninth, but the Mets' comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday night in D.C.
Now, R.A. Dickey (12-1) must top Gio Gonzalez (12-4) in a battle of the NL's wins leaders for the Mets to halt a six-game losing streak and avoid returning to Citi Field with a winless second-half-opening trip to Atlanta and D.C.
Thursday's news reports:
• Terry Collins called a pregame team meeting Wednesday to rally his team. The manager suggested it primarily was spurred by Pedro Beato's postgame comments Tuesday, which seemed to question whether Josh Thole could have blocked a game-ending wild pitch. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger and Record.
• Miguel Batista, who has been selected to start Saturday's game against the Dodgers at Citi Field over Matt Harvey, offered some bullish comments after Wednesday's loss. After allowing the Nats' final two runs in two-thirds of an inning on the day a starting pitcher normally would throw a bullpen session, Batista suggested the Mets are the best team in the majors. His right leg, which took a glancing blow on a comebacker, is fine, he suggested.
• Mike Puma in the Post reported Harvey could debut as soon as next Thursday's road-trip opener at Arizona if Batista is a bust against L.A. Puma suggested one reason the Mets went to Batista first is because he would be the likely roster casualty for Harvey. And, if Harvey struggled, the Mets potentially would have lost Batista and not had a viable fallback.
• Chris Young was flawless in a scoreless duel with Jordan Zimmermann until the sixth inning, when Adam LaRoche delivered a two-run homer on a pitch that actually was off the plate. "There's no satisfaction tonight. We lost the game," Young said. "We needed a win, and I didn't get it done. ... I didn't think it was a bad pitch. It wasn't like I missed my spot or left something over the plate that he punished. He hit a decent pitch." The Mets' deficit swelled to three runs once Batista allowed a two-run double to Steve Lombardozzi. Batista had fallen behind in the count, 2-0, and put a ball over the middle of the plate. Read Wednesday's game recaps in the Post, Record, Newsday, Daily News, Times and Journal.
• Jeurys Familia limited Toledo to one run and three hits in a career-high eight innings, but Triple-A Buffalo lost in extra innings to the Mud Hens. With St. Lucie, Mike Baxter went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts as the DH in the fourth day of a maximum 20-day rehab assignment. Read Wednesday's full minor league recap here.
• Bay actually went 2-for-4 with the ninth-inning solo homer. Pregame, Collins was explaining why Bay -- and not Jordany Valdespin -- got the start. Valdespin, the would-be hero of Tuesday's game with a three-run pinch-hit homer before things went awry, this time struck out against the same pitcher, Tyler Clippard, for the final out. Read more on Bay in the Daily News.
• Jon Rauch had his knees drained before the series opener and was unavailable Tuesday. He returned to game action Wednesday and pitched a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. Writes Anthony DiComo at MLB.com:
Rauch said he was in "quite a bit of pain" Tuesday due to his knees filling up with fluid, "to the point where I could barely even walk." Around game time, a doctor came to the clubhouse to drain both knees and give Rauch a cortisone injection, which reduced the pain. Because of the procedure, Collins believed that Rauch was unavailable in the 10th inning Tuesday -- even if Rauch disagreed. "I could have pitched," Rauch said. "I could have pitched through pain. It wouldn't have been the first time." Rauch has undergone surgeries to both knees in his career and endured arthritis for years, prompting him to receive an injection of synthetic cartilage on July 8. But he had a bad reaction to the procedure and his knees filled up with fluid, which a doctor drained Tuesday.
• The Mets are aiming for Frank Francisco (oblique) to begin a rehab assignment next Friday, so the closer should miss the upcoming homestand against the Dodgers and Nationals.
• VP Paul DePodesta, who oversees the farm system and draft, spoke about Jenrry Mejia's future role, expectations for Harvey, Zack Wheeler's innings limit and sleeper prospects in the system during a Q&A with ESPNNewYork.com. Read Part I and Part 2.
• Dickey has allowed five runs apiece in three of his past four starts. He tells Tom Pedulla in Newsday: "During the course of the 162-game season, every starter, whether it is Justin Verlander or whoever it may be, has to weather some storms and not overthink things. That's when you get in trouble."
Writes columnist John Harper in the Daily News about the importance of Dickey's outing against the Nats:
Somehow, he has lost the touch, getting smacked around in three of his last four starts to the tune of 15 earned runs. Dickey doesn’t seem to know why the knuckler has flattened out of late, but if he can’t find the feel that made him mostly unhittable for three months, the Mets are dead. If Dickey can’t deliver a win, it will feel like they are dead. Two days ago it was none other than Terry Collins who said this was a crucial series for the Mets, as much for their psyche as what it could mean in the standings. “We need to come out of this series feeling good about ourselves,” Collins said. “Whether that’s one, two, or three wins, we need to come out of it feeling like we’re still competing.” Collins apparently didn’t consider the possibility of zero wins.
Read more in the Times.
• On the trade front:
David Lennon in Newsday reports the Mets have targeted Oakland reliever Grant Balfour.
Sandy Alderson tells Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger: “We’re not interested in doing something just to create the impression that we’re doing something." McCullough reports the Mets have scouted Milwaukee’s Francisco Rodriguez, San Diego’s Huston Street, Kansas City’s Jonathan Broxton and Houston’s Brett Myers.
Writes Brian Costa in the Journal:
According to people familiar with their thinking, the Mets are targeting a closer-type, with three pitchers in particular topping their wish list: Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez, Houston's Brett Myers and San Diego's Huston Street. But the Padres are said to "have no plans" to trade Street, their All-Star closer, and are not even listening to offers at this point. And the Brewers just made the former Met Rodriguez their closer, replacing the struggling John Axford, so it's not clear whether he'll be on the market. Myers, the Astros' 31-year-old closer, appears to be the most attainable of the three at the moment. But the high end of the relief market is a slim one. ...
They've talked to the Athletics about Grant Balfour, but their interest in him is described as tepid. And they've talked to the Padres about setup man Luke Gregerson, who entered Wednesday with a 3.32 ERA in 44 appearances. But the Mets balked at San Diego's request for Daniel Murphy in such a deal, according to a person with knowledge of the talks.
• Cody Derespina in Newsday recaps Alderson's trade history with the Mets.
• Michael Salfino in the Journal notes Harvey has had more Triple-A seasoning than most college pitchers who fit his profile. Writes Salfino:
Harvey has already pitched 105 innings in Triple-A Buffalo since 2011, compiling a 3.34 ERA and striking out over a batter per inning. The average Triple A-stay of the 20 active pitchers drafted out of college in the first 15 overall picks since 2005 is just 22.8 innings, according to Stats, LLC.. And seven didn't even stop there at all before proceeding directly to the majors. The White Sox had all-star lefty Chris Sale -- drafted six spots after Harvey -- toss a mere 6.3 Triple-A innings before calling him up for good. The Nationals gave Stephen Strasburg a 33.3-inning layover. Tim Lincecum pitched just 31 innings at the highest minor league level before winning the Cy Young Award in 2008.
• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record writes about the fall of Lenny Dykstra. Writes Klapisch:
The idea of Dykstra in an orange jumpsuit seems impossible to those who remember the fearless ballplayer who took on the world in a 5-foot-9 frame. But that person is “gone,” said Darryl Strawberry. “That Lenny has been gone for a long time.” Speaking by telephone Wednesday, Darryl echoed the sentiment of most ’80s-era Mets, acknowledging the depths of Dykstra’s crimes, yet somehow still feeling sorry for him. “Mentally, Lenny just isn’t the same person. He doesn’t have the same mental capacity as he did when he was playing,” Strawberry said. “Whatever Lenny put in his body, it changed his personality.”
TRIVIA: In what stadium did Wright make his major league debut?
Wednesday's answer: The Braves' Diory Hernandez was at third base and scored when D.J. Carrasco balked in the winning run at Turner Field on June 16, 2011.