- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATLANTA -- It's getting late early for the Mets. After losing to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, the Amazin's are now 10 games under .500 for the first time this season as well as a season-high nine games out of first place.
Still, Terry Collins is trying to keep the team upbeat. The manager noted that five of the Mets' next eight games are against division-leading Atlanta, including a four-game series beginning Monday at Citi Field.
"So the idea is to go out and win four of the next five," Collins said after Tuesday's 5-4 loss. ... You've just got to hang in there. We can't tuck our heads between our legs and feel bad for ourselves."John Bazemore/Associated Press
Chris Johnson scores on Mike Minor's tiebreaking RBI single against Daisuke Matsuzaka in the fourth.
The big blow in the latest defeat came when opposing pitcher Mike Minor had a two-out RBI single in the fourth that broke a 2-all tie. Andrelton Simmons contributed a two-run single later that inning.
"In our pregame meeting today, I was told Minor has a good swing," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "So I was careful out there. Just bad location and a good swing."
Said Collins: "When they needed a big hit, they got it. He got one. And then Simmons got one. Then we had a nice inning going and we just couldn't score."
Collins was referring to the top of the fifth, a half-inning after Minor's RBI. Daniel Murphy's two-run homer lifted the Mets within a run, but the Mets left runners on the corners when Chris Young flied out and Travis d'Arnaud struck out.
"There's a reason why they're winning," Collins said about the Braves. "There's a reason why they've won. They do have a knack for it. Those are the kind of players they have over there. Those guys, Freddie [Freeman] and Jason [Heyward] and Justin Upton, they're tough in the clutch. They're very tough."
Contrasting that mindset with his own club's psyche, Collins added: "It takes confidence. It takes an approach at the plate to use the field. I mean, you see Freddie Freeman all the time getting hits the other way, Chris Johnson getting hits to right field. It's something we stress and talk about all the time -- and that is use the field to hit, especially when you get deep into a count, behind in the count, where you're not going to get something to drive maybe. You've got to use the field to hit. It's the same stuff we've talked about all year. It hasn't changed."
Collins lamented the Mets' gaudy strikeout totals Tuesday.
"Thirteen is a lot of strikeouts," he said. "Once again, they've haunted us for a while. ... These guys don't walk you a lot. They're going to be around the plate. So you've got to put the ball in play."
As for Matsuzaka, he has now allowed five runs in each of his past two starts.
"These past two games have been the same result, but what actually happened in the game is different," Matsuzaka said. "It's not really equal. But as a pitcher in my position, regardless of what actually happened in the game, these are unforgivable mistakes that I made and definitely cost me."
Asked about potentially moving to the bullpen with Dillon Gee set to return from the disabled list soon, Matsuzaka added: "I'll think about that when it happens."