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NEW YORK -- The New York Mets' playoff hopes have been on life support since the team opened the second half in a tailspin. You can officially pull the plug on 2010 if the 53-52 Mets don't gain significant ground on the road this week against the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
And after Sunday's ugly and embarrassing 14-1 loss to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field, Jerry Manuel's crew left you with little reason to believe they have the wherewithal to turn things around.
"It definitely hurts your pride a little bit to perform in that manner. We didn't pitch, we didn't hit and we didn't catch it. So that's somewhat embarrassing," the Mets manager said after the deflating defeat, in what has to qualify as the understatement of the summer.
Mets pitchers allowed four home runs and 14 runs on Sunday -- both season highs for Citi Field. (You know it's a bad day when Oliver Perez shows up on the mound, as he did in the eighth inning. He promptly gave up four runs.)
They also committed two costly, inning-extending errors. And Mets hitters mustered only three hits in eight innings off Arizona starter Daniel Hudson.
The boys from Flushing will take this listless act to Atlanta, where they begin a three-game series on Monday night against the first-place Braves. They then head to division rival Philadelphia for a three-game set on Friday.
If they don't take, if not sweep, both series -- which, at this point, would be a minor miracle -- you can forget about meaningful games in September.
Citi Field will surely be a ghost town in the final weeks of the season if the Mets can't whittle the seven-game gap between them and first place over the next seven days. And the cries for Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya to lose their jobs will only intensify.
"Hopefully [Sunday's loss] is one of those things that we get out of the way," Manuel said. "We've got some things right in front of us that we have to take care of. But we definitely have to do better than what we're doing to take care of those things."
Anything can happen in baseball, but let's be honest here: The Mets have lost five of six to the last-place Diamondbacks in the last two weeks. The same Diamondbacks who have lost their past 11 games against teams without M-E-T-S on the front of their jerseys. The same Diamondbacks who came into Sunday's game with a bullpen sporting a horrific 6.54 ERA. The same Diamondbacks who held a fire sale last week, dealing their top two starting pitchers and their starting catcher.
"We didn't do a good job," Jeff Francoeur said. "We gave up a lot of runs, we didn't score any runs. We got blown out by them two or three times. It wasn't a pretty six games for us against the Diamondbacks, so we need to find a way to get it going.
"I don't think it gives us the best confidence going in. We have to find a way to forget about this series."
You can look at plenty of reasons as to why the Mets are where they are as the calendar turned to August -- poor offensive production up and down the lineup (particularly out of Jason Bay), lack of depth in the starting rotation and an inability to win on the road. But what they've done in the last two weeks against Arizona has hurt them significantly.
And Sunday's home run derby by the visiting team served to throw desert sand in the Mets' faces.
"We were awful from the get-go. We didn't pitch, we didn't play defense, the energy was awful," said veteran infielder Alex Cora, who hoped the team could turn the page as soon as possible before Johan Santana takes the mound on Monday against the Braves.
David Wright also left Citi Field with a sense of urgency.
"It's getting to the point where we've gotta get hot, go on a roll and rattle off some serious wins in a row. We've dug ourselves a hole," the Mets third baseman said. "We win these and go on a run, we can be right back in this thing. And then, obviously the reverse can happen. We go play the way we're playing now, there's a good chance -- especially on the road, where we've struggled -- that we don't get the results that we want."
That's a bit like saying the sun will rise every day this week. Or set, as the case may be.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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