NEW YORK -- Terry Collins has reached his breaking point.
After defending his team's fight and will all season, the New York Mets manager said his team has "folded it up" following a 10-1 loss on Thursday to the Nationals that marked the Mets' sixth straight defeat and dropped them to 1-8 on their just-completed homestand.
"Perception is reality in our game and the perception I have right now is we've folded it up," Collins said in a passionate postgame news conference. "You want to see intenseness? You want to see me be intense? You guys are going to see it. I won't play that game. You come and play the game right. I don't care what the situation is. I don't care about anything but playing the game correctly. That's all I care about. Our fans should be upset. I don't blame them one bit."
Collins, in his first year as manager, said his team is showing no energy on the field and is not playing like it has all season long. The 10-1 loss to the Nationals on Thursday gave Washington a four-game sweep and the Mets managed to score only five runs in those four games against a team that's six games below .500.
Collins talked at length about how teams are tired at the end of the season, not just the Mets, and there's no way the Nationals could have been more tired than the Mets entering this four-game sweep. He said both teams are playing for pride and their place in the standings, as the Nationals passed the Mets for third in the NL East with their win Thursday.
The manager said he was "disgusted" with the way the Mets played on this homestand, losing eight games to the Braves, Cubs and Nationals, and said that the team has to find a new formula.
He added that if the Mets play this way against their next opponent, Atlanta, they would be embarrassed in their three-game set.
"I've been proud of the way this team has played all year long, but we're not done. We've got two weeks to go. And if we're going to fold it up, that tells me something," Collins said. "That tells me a lot about how it's going to be when it comes crunch time next year, when we are fighting for something."
While Collins called out the team, he didn't exclude himself from the mix. The fiery manager shouldered the blame for the team's lethargic play.
"Obviously this is an awful time, an awful time," Collins said. "And I'll tell you what, as I've said many times before, I'm responsible. I'm the manager of this team and I'm responsible for it.
"We didn't coach, we didn't manage and we didn't play. It's pretty simple. You go through stretches, this is one of them."
The Mets clubhouse following Thursday's game was quiet and somber and the players agreed with their manager's assessment that they are not playing inspired baseball.
"I think you understand where he's coming from. I know he walked through here and he's embarrassed and obviously we don't look very good right now, so you understand where he's coming from," starter Mike Pelfrey said. "It all comes out when you don't hit and you don't pitch and when you don't play defense; it shows."
Third baseman David Wright acknowledged the team's recent failures, saying that the team doesn't need to be told it has been playing bad baseball. A lack of hitting, sloppy errors and subpar pitching have all contributed to the team's free fall. Though Wright didn't say he thinks his team is folding it up like Collins did, he understands why his manager could get that impression.
"You got guys going out there and battling their butts off, sometimes you don't get hits, sometimes you don't make the pitches," Wright said. "I guess from the outside it could look like (we're folding it up), but you go out there, you battle and sometimes things don't go right and right now we're not getting much going right."
Entering this homestand, the Mets had been 70-71 and the possibility of a .500 or better season was very much in play. After falling to 71-79 this weekend, the Mets are going to need to play perhaps their best ball of the season to get to .500, which would be a complete flip from what's transpired since Sept. 8.
Collins knows his team has two weeks left in the season to change it all around. He said that he'll get his team going tomorrow against Atlanta and his team wants to make sure that it doesn't put all the effort from earlier in the season to waste.
"What I think at this point in the season is you're obviously looking for pieces to the puzzle and trying to have a vision for what's going to become," pitcher R.A. Dickey said. "You don't want to say the past five months of effort and hard work have been for naught. We're at a crossroads. We fought valiantly for a long time, and you don't want it to seemingly go for nothing. It's one thing to play your butt off and get beat. But we've found ways to beat ourselves over the last six games. ... At the same time, you don't want to destroy what has been built. There are still things and hopes to hang on to."
Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.