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MIAMI -- Jose Reyes leaned back in a folding chair, hands on his head, facing his locker while struggling to comprehend his struggles at the plate.
"Right there," the Mets' shortstop said, referring to a ninth-inning offering from Florida Marlins closer Leo Nunez. "Good pitch to bunt."
For the second straight day, manager Jerry Manuel asked Reyes to sacrifice ahead the tiebreaking run.
|David Wright continued to struggle on Thursday, going 0-for-4 with two more strikeouts.|
For the second straight day, Reyes twice failed on bunt attempts, then recorded an out -- this time with a fly ball to left field that forced Luis Castillo to hold at second base.
Not that Reyes' teammates fared much better, as a situation Manuel labeled "ideal" fizzled.
Jason Bay tapped out to third base and David Wright struck out, ending the threat for the Mets -- who have a .236 average with runners in scoring position this season, better than only the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League.
In the bottom of the ninth, Fernando Nieve threw a wild pitch, allowing Cody Ross to score the game-winning run from third base, and the Mets lost to the Marlins 2-1 at Sun Life Stadium in what began as a stellar duel between aces Johan Santana and Josh Johnson.
After the Mets went hitless from the second inning until Castillo's ninth-inning infield hit, Manuel suggested the batting order shakeup he has resisted thus far may be necessary if things don't turn around quickly with the offense. Reyes, meanwhile, was left to wonder how he is hitting only .221 in the 131 at-bats since his return from the disabled list.
"I don't have no excuse there," said Reyes, who acknowledged he hasn't been much of a bunter throughout his career. "I have to move that runner, no matter how -- bunting, hit a ground ball to second base, something. I wasn't able to do my job there. I'm better than that."
As for the two-strike approach after the pair of failed bunts, Reyes added: "I tried to hit the ball to second base. But right now things are not going too good for me. I tried to do my best there to try to put that runner at third base."
Said Manuel: "We have to probably take note these next couple of days where we are as an offensive club. If we continue to see the same thing, then I'm going to have to make some adjustments to the lineup. It's that simple."
Reyes actually had worked for 15 minutes with third-base coach Chip Hale before the game on bunting technique after failing twice Wednesday against the Washington Nationals in the seventh inning at Citi Field.
Regardless, Manuel was asked: If Reyes is a legitimate No. 3 hitter, why does his manager want him to bunt with a runner in scoring position in the ninth inning of a tie game?
"Well, we had the situation where we felt that if we could get that runner over, a fly ball or something would have got him in," Manuel said. "And I also feel, too, when you ask a guy to sacrifice, I think, for me, it slows the game down for him. It gives him a chance to look at the ball hit the bat. That was part of that process as well. Obviously, none of those things happened."
How, though, can Reyes, Bay and Wright be retired consecutively with Castillo sitting at second and Francisco Rodriguez warming up to come in for the ninth inning if the Mets could only take the lead?
"You're right," Manuel said, wondering the same thing. "That's the ideal situation. You've got the first guy on second base and you've got what you think are your three best shots to get him in. We're just a hit away. One hit away. And we're playing good baseball for the most part. Some things begin to be magnified because the games are so close and everybody can identify them. But we still have to hit the baseball."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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