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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Mets' mettle shows despite late loss

By Kieran Darcy
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- It was a strange day at Citi Field, capping off an interesting six-game homestand for the New York Mets.

With a game-time temperature of 48 degrees, a persistent drizzle throughout, and very few people in the park, the Mets lost to the Washington Nationals, 6-4, in a Wednesday matinee.

The Mets fought back from behind yet again, tying the game at 2-2 in the second inning, and again at 4-4 in the fifth. But closer Francisco Rodriguez, called on in the top of the ninth in a tie ballgame, surrendered a two-run home run to Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina -- his second homer of the game and of his brief big league career. And after a quiet bottom of the ninth, the Mets had suddenly lost the game, and the series, to Washington.

"The way he hit that ball, it was not a good pitch at all," Rodriguez said. "Pretty obviously it was up in the middle [of the plate], and in that situation, if you miss your spot … you're gonna pay for your mistake."

This homestand -- during which the Mets went 3-3 -- started with arguably the most exciting Mets game of the year. Rookie first baseman Ike Davis and No. 8-hitting catcher Rod Barajas hit two home runs apiece, and Barajas' walk-off blast in the bottom of the ninth gave the Mets a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

The next day, the Mets again won in walk-off fashion -- this time via a homer by backup catcher Henry Blanco in the 11th inning. It was the first time ever a team has won back-to-back games with a catcher providing a walk-off home run.

But lost in all that excitement was the fact that Rodriguez gave up a long ball in the ninth inning of that Friday night win as well, which necessitated Barajas' heroics.

That's a tough way for K-Rod to begin, and end, a homestand. But he didn't seem too flustered after Wednesday's loss.

"That one's on me; I let it get away," Rodriguez said. "I just gotta wipe it out and make sure tomorrow in the ninth inning I'm ready to go."

"I think he's fine," Barajas said of Rodriguez. "He just made that one mistake. It was basically that one pitch."

No signs of panic here.

On the bright side, the Mets showed plenty of backbone over these past six games.

After the high drama of Friday and Saturday's wins, they fell behind 4-0 with Tim Lincecum on the mound for the Giants on Sunday but battled back to take the lead before ultimately losing, 6-5.

On Monday, they tallied runs in the seventh and ninth but came up short against these Nationals, 3-2.

On Tuesday, they erupted for six runs in the eighth inning, turning a 6-2 deficit into an 8-6 victory.

And on Wednesday, they came back to tie the ballgame not once but twice.

Noticing a trend here?

It was a 3-3 homestand, not nearly as impressive on the surface as the team's 9-1 stint at Citi Field from April 19 to April 28.

But perhaps this set of games was more revealing -- demonstrating that this team is more than a one-trick pony or a 10-game flash in the pan.

Demonstrating that there's something in this team's collective chest cavity, which maybe hasn't been there the past couple of years.

There are still problems here, for sure. The team's big three hitters -- Jose Reyes, Jason Bay and David Wright -- managed just two hits Wednesday, and have been about as cold as the unseasonable temperatures at Citi Field of late.

But despite Wednesday's loss, there seems to be a bit of a warm, fuzzy feeling around this team right now, as it heads to Florida for a four-game series. And it's personified by its ever-optimistic manager, Jerry Manuel.

"I think some guys are getting close to breaking out," Manuel said. "Hopefully we'll get down in the warm weather and see what we can do."

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. He can be reached at kieran.d.darcy@espn.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.