Apr 21

Mets On Slippery Slope Following Another Loss

The bloom is off the Mets’ early season rose. After a quick start that included winning the first two games in last weekend’s series in Philadelphia, the Mets have lost three straight and four of their last five.

They are still over .500, but the sense this could be a different year is fading. Thirteen games is two small a picture to frame it a season, but the crispness that opened the year is gone.

Frank Francisco, who opened with three straight saves, has given up four runs in his last three appearances. Last night he walked Melky Cabrera on four pitches to lead off the tenth. Cabrera stole on a pitchout, which is almost impossible to do, and scored on a two-out single.

That’s three red flags in one inning: the leadoff walk; stealing on a pitchout shows an inability to hold runners and a lack of concentration; and the two-out hit is indicative of not putting away an inning. A successful closer doesn’t do any of those things on a consistent basis.

Francisco has good stuff, but has always been erratic in the little things, such as those mentioned above. Explains in large part why he was was available.

There’s more to be concerned with:

By definition, Jon Niese had a quality start giving up three runs in six innings, but needed 109 pitches to do so. That’s clearly working too hard. That many pitches should take him through the eighth, at least. Maybe complete-game worthy.

However, it was an upgrade from what the Mets received their two previous games from R. A. Dickey and Johan Santana. This afternoon it is Mike Pelfrey, who has been anything but calming and comforting.

The starting pitching is key to whatever success the Mets have this year and it must improve.

Offensively, Jason Bay homered and got another hit, but neither he nor Lucas Duda are hitting in the clutch. Bay struck out with runners on second and third and one out in the tenth. Both hitters are 1-for-13 with RSIP. That’s 2-for-26, which translates into a lot of runners left on base and empty innings. A lot of losses, too.

Also offensively are the continuing struggles of Ike Davis who struck out twice while going hitless five times last night. His swing gets longer and loopier by the game.

All teams are going to have night like that occasionally, but the Mets’ last four losses have exposed their flaws greatly.

I wrote several times this week how the Mets had to snap out of it to avoid a downhill slide. They are in one now.

ON DECK: Starting lineup.