NEW YORK -- The somber faces and hushed tones in the New York Mets' clubhouse Thursday evening spoke volumes.
After being swept in a doubleheader by the Colorado Rockies and going 1-6 on its first homestand of the 2011 season, New York's National League ballclub is in a nosedive.
"Depressing," manager Terry Collins said when asked to assess the homestand against the Washington Nationals and Rockies. "We said in spring training, to play at this level and compete at this level, especially with our team, we've gotta pitch and we've gotta catch. And we didn't do a very good job of that."
After coming out of the gate 3-1, the Mets now stand 4-9, having lost five in a row and eight of nine. The Rockies departed Citi Field with a sweep of this week's four-game series and the best record in the majors at 10-2. It's their first sweep in Queens since 1994.
"This is tough, man," shortstop Jose Reyes said. "When you play a doubleheader and you lost both games, that means something's gone wrong."
In the first game of the day, the Mets blew an early 2-0 lead, as starting pitcher R.A. Dickey was subpar for the second consecutive start. Dickey allowed five runs on eight hits with four walks, and was chased with one out in the seventh after surrendering a two-run home run to Carlos Gonzalez. The Mets rallied in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing 6-3, Scott Hairston belted a two-run homer, and the Mets loaded the bases with two outs for David Wright. But Wright flied out to the warning track in right.
In the nightcap, the Mets again blew early leads of both 2-0 and 4-2 -- in fact, the Mets have scored first in six straight games but have lost five of those six. The Rockies erupted for six runs in the sixth inning off Mets starter Chris Capuano and reliever Taylor Buchholz. Troy Tulowitzki led off the frame with a solo home run -- his second of the day and fourth of the four-game series (he homered in each game). Jonathan Herrera finished off the inning with a three-run jack to right -- just the second home run of his major league career.
But the most troubling aspect of the two losses was the miscues the Mets made in the field. In the first game, Angel Pagan lost a ball in the sun in the fifth inning, which led to a run. He also made an error playing a ball off the wall in the seventh, which turned a double into a triple. And in the sixth inning, Hairston simply stopped running after a fly ball that he thought was going off the wall -- except it landed well short of it, leading to two runs.
And in Game 2, the Mets could have escaped that ultimately disastrous sixth inning giving up just one run and holding on to a 4-3 lead. With the bases loaded and one out, Capuano induced opposing pitcher Jorge De La Rosa to hit a double-play grounder to second base -- but Brad Emaus bobbled it and got only one out on the play. A run scored, and four more crossed the plate before the inning was over.
Both starting pitchers stood up for their teammates afterward -- one positive sign emanating from a mostly ugly 6 hours and 39 minutes of baseball Thursday.
"It's hard. I'm not out there. So whether it's a sun issue or just unfamiliarity with the dimensions or what, I'm not sure," Dickey said. "And truthfully, the thing that hurt us the most was I walked a guy who ended up scoring. Even though we may or may not should have caught that ball, I certainly shouldn't have walked the No. 8-hole hitter."
"You're out there, your job as a pitcher is to get another ground ball, to pick your teammates up," Capuano said. "There was a ball scalded at Emaus earlier in the game, and he made a great play on that ball. For me, I'm there to have my teammates' back and pick them up. I'm more angry at myself."
"I read it wrong," Hairston said of his gaffe in the first game. "I gotta keep running. It was my mistake."
"I tried to do the best I could but the ball obviously got in the sun; I couldn't see it anymore," said Pagan.
"We're playing sloppy right now," Wright said. "[It's] little things, even that might go unnoticed -- [like] we're allowing guys to take extra bases. Just making a lot of little mistakes that are starting to add up and cost us baseball games."
The Mets now head to Atlanta for a three-game series at Turner Field -- typically a house of horrors for the Amazin's. After Wednesday's loss, Collins held a brief closed-door team meeting, to try to motivate his team. After Thursday's second loss, the manager alluded to possible changes coming, albeit in a somewhat vague fashion.
"We're gonna talk about it. We're gonna address some things," Collins said. "This game is about preparation sometimes. And maybe we're not taking enough balls off the bat, maybe we're not doing the things that you do during [batting practice] to get you ready to play. It'll all be assessed.
"We're gonna go to Atlanta, and I'll be thinking about what we gotta do and what needs to be addressed and how we're gonna address it when we get down there."
Last season, the Mets started out 4-8. A day later, the Mets called up prized first-base prospect Ike Davis, immediately went on a 9-1 tear at Citi Field and were eight games over .500 at the All-Star break, before the bottom fell out on the West Coast after the Midsummer Classic.
This season, there's no prized prospect coming to the rescue from Triple-A Buffalo to spark the team. And the Mets are headed on the road, where the downward spiral is likely to continue -- especially with D.J. Carrasco starting Friday night against Derek Lowe.
But the Mets' first-year manager remains doggedly optimistic.
"I still believe that we're gonna bounce back," Collins said. "I still believe we got a long way to go. I still believe we're gonna get this pitching thing straightened out. We're gonna get our lineup set, and back. We played too good, we showed too much promise in spring training.
"Certainly this is a downer; no question about it. I'm not gonna sugarcoat this. This is not a good homestand, this is not the way we want to come out of the gate, this is not what we want to show our fans. We're a better team than this, and we will fix it."