After a flying start, the Mets have come crashing back to earth.
The Marlins (1-3) arrived in Queens as the only winless team left in Major League Baseball, and had scored just one run in their first three games. But they were the better team on Friday night at Citi Field.
It certainly wasn't Jeremy Hefner's fault. The 27-year-old righty continued the Mets' string of outstanding starting pitching, giving up just one run on five hits over six innings of work. Yet he took the loss, after the Mets put up six goose eggs against the Marlins' Alex Sanabia, who was making his first big league appearance since 2011.
"I thought Jeremy pitched very well," manager Terry Collins said. "One thing we’ve known about Hefner, he’s gonna pound the strike zone, he’s gonna change speeds, and you have to catch the baseball behind him."
The Mets didn't do that when Greg Burke relieved Hefner in the seventh. Ruben Tejada misplayed a grounder to lead off the inning, and the Marlins ended up scoring five runs in the frame off Burke and Scott Rice.
Burke didn't help his own cause by throwing to third base, instead of first, on a bunt by Juan Pierre two batters after Tejada's error. The runner was safe, the bases were loaded, and Miami was set up for a big inning.
"In that situation, I probably just need to get the out," Burke said.
"Greg just got a little bit of a late jump on the ball," said Collins. "He should have gone to first base."
The Mets did mount a rally in the final three innings. Daniel Murphy smacked a three-run homer in the seventh to cut the deficit in half, 6-3.
Murphy had another big opportunity in the eighth, with the bases loaded and two outs, but grounded out to second.
The Mets left 12 runners on base on the night.
"We battled back, all the way up until the last out," said Buck. "So you can’t feel too deflated with that."
They did battle. But this performance is likely more indicative of what this Mets team is, rather than the two wins against the Padres to start the week.
The rotation figured to be strong, and the starters have given up just four runs in 26 innings thus far (1.38 ERA). But the bullpen looks shaky, and the lineup inconsistent.
Buck has been outstanding (7-for-17), but no one else has more than four hits through four games. David Wright and Murphy are off to slow starts (3-for-14 apiece), and Ike Davis is 1-for-16 to start the year.
"We’ve got a couple guys, hopefully they’re gonna start breaking out of it here pretty soon," Collins said.
Sounds like a midseason slump kind of quote, but it's only April 5.