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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Mets experience Harvey hangover, again

By Kieran Darcy

Jeremy Hefner
Jeremy Hefner needed help but didn't receive any in the Mets' 6-3 loss to the White Sox at Citi Field.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

That sums up the two-game series between the Mets and the Chicago White Sox at Citi Field.

On Tuesday, Matt Harvey made the next step on his ascent to superstardom, nearly pitching a perfect game. On Wednesday, without Harvey propping them up, the Mets fell back to earth, losing 6-3 to the last-place ChiSox.

The Mets are now 0-7 in games after Harvey starts. And Jeremy Hefner is 0-4, after allowing four runs on eight hits in six innings of work.

“I’m tired of losing,” Hefner said. “It’s frustrating. I need to get better, and I need to make better pitches.”

But this loss wasn’t Hefner’s fault. Yes, he gave up a home run to the first batter of the game, Alejando De Aza. But the White Sox were very fortunate to score three runs off Hefner in the third inning. Three of their four hits in the frame were soft -- a bunt single, an infield single, and a shallow fly to center that found a patch of green in between three defenders.

“I thought Jeremy was pitching OK,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We just couldn’t catch back up.”

Therein lies the real problem with this team. A night after they couldn’t even deliver one run in regulation so Harvey would receive a much-deserved win, the Mets posted just one run on three hits off Chicago starter Jake Peavy. They tacked on two more -- one unearned -- against the White Sox bullpen, but it still was yet another underwhelming performance.

The Mets have now scored just 11 runs over their last six home games, batting .171 (32-for-187) during that span.

“I don’t know,” Collins said, when asked if his team is pressing. “Whether we are or not, it just looks like it. We certainly gotta relax and put better swings on the ball.”

It was a night to forget for the Mets’ best hitters. David Wright was hitless, although he did walk twice. Lucas Duda hit a solo homer but also struck out three times. Daniel Murphy was 0-for-4, as was John Buck and Ike Davis.

“When you start struggling a little bit, you start trying to do a little bit too much,” Justin Turner said. “And you just gotta find a way to keep it simple, take a good at-bat, and let the results take care of themselves.”

Turner, ironically, is the only Mets hitter you could consider “hot” right now. After singling in both of his plate appearances Wednesday after entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, he is now batting .372 on the season (in 43 at-bats).

Turner played the outfield, in left, for the first time in his big-league career in the ninth inning. But don’t expect to see him starting out there anytime soon.

“We’ve already experienced enough guys playing out of position up here that has hurt us in the long run,” Collins said. “To ask Justin Turner to go play left field when he’s never played the outfield in his life -- to start a game, or to play there on a consistent basis, that’s a lot to ask, in my opinion.”

Instead, the Mets will count upon the other guys to turn it around. But can they?

Wright’s a proven commodity, and Murphy will at least hit for average.

But Duda still has plenty to prove, and is 2-for-16 in May, dropping him to .239. Buck remains among the league leaders in home runs (10) and RBIs (29), but his average is down to .236 after three hitless games in a row.

And Davis? Well, he has plummeted to .170. So much for avoiding another slow start. His average is almost identical to what it was on this date one year ago (.167).

“Everyone in here is a competitor, everyone wants to have success. So when you struggle a little bit, you want to fix it right away, you want to get out of it and you try harder,” Turner said. “But if we’re gonna have one of these little skids, it’s better to have it now, early in the year, than have it say in August or September.”

True -- except the Mets aren’t likely to be relevant in the standings by August or September.

The bottom line? Every fifth day, when Matt Harvey's on the mound, the Mets are going to be worth watching, and have a great chance to win.

But on the other four days? They’re facing an uphill climb.

Tuesday was a night to remember. But this season isn’t headed for a happy ending.