For the first time in more than four months, the New York Mets are no longer leading the NL East. Their timing couldn’t be worse.
The collapsing Mets look to ward off potential elimination from the postseason when they continue their three-game series against the Florida Marlins on Saturday at Shea Stadium.
New York (87-73) lost to the Marlins 7-4 on Friday to drop its fifth straight game, and fall into second place for the first time since May 15 when it was one-half game back of Atlanta.
The Mets led the NL East by an apparently insurmountable seven games on Sept. 12, but have lost 11 of 15 since then to fall one game back of first-place Philadelphia. No major league team has blown such a big lead in such a short time at the end of a season.
The surging Phillies could win the division Saturday with a victory over Washington if the Mets lose again to the Marlins.
New York could find itself out of playoffs entirely, as it is two games behind San Diego in the wild-card race.
“It doesn’t feel real good right now but we’ve still got to get a win so we can have a chance,” New York manager Willie Randolph said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen down the pipe but we have to take care of ourself first.”
The Mets were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Friday, and are just 9-for-40 (.225) with runners in scoring position during their slide. They have not lost six straight games since Sept. 5-10, 2005.
New York has also dropped eight straight at home, its longest skid at Shea since losing nine in a row from Aug. 29-Sept. 12, 2004. The Mets have lost five of seven at Shea to Florida this season.
“I think it’s embarrassing,” David Wright said. “It’s pretty pathetic that we have this division within our grasp with seven home games and we can’t find a way to win one of them. It’s a bad feeling.”
John Maine (14-10, 4.07 ERA) has also been slumping lately, and he’ll look for his first win of the month when he takes the ball Saturday.
Against the Marlins on Sunday, Maine gave up three runs, six hits and matched a career high with nine strikeouts, but needed 102 pitches to get through five innings of a 7-6, 11-inning victory.
Maine hasn’t won since beating Atlanta on Aug. 31, going 0-2 with a 8.24 ERA in four September starts. He hasn’t won at Shea since beating Washington on July 29, going 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA in his last four home outings.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts - all on the road - against the Marlins this season. He is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA in four lifetime outings against them.
Florida (70-90) has won four straight after losing seven of eight. It swept three games from the Chicago Cubs, who won the NL Central on Friday, before coming to New York.
“There’s no personal satisfaction other than shaking hands and winning ballgames,” said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Jeremy Hermida hit his 18th homer of the season Friday, and is 11-for-22 with eight RBIs in his last five games. Hermida is 4-for-7 in his career against Maine.
Hanley Ramirez had three hits Friday, and is 15-for-38 (.395) with a homer and seven RBIs in his last seven games. He is batting .410 (16-for-39) with a homer and seven RBIs in his last eight games against the Mets.
Rookie Chris Seddon (0-1, 6.89) looks to build off his solid start against the Mets when he takes the hill Saturday.
Seddon opposed Maine last Sunday, and gave up two runs - on a Paul Lo Duca two-run homer - and three hits in a career-high five innings in his sixth outing of the season.
“I felt good. I’m feeling strong,” Seddon told the team’s official Web site. “It just boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can pitch here.”
In three starts this year, the 23-year-old left-hander is 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA.