Sinking Mets fall out of first with 7-4 loss to Florida Marlins

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NEW YORK (AP)—The New York Mets’ meltdown reached the absurd Friday night. Out of first place and nearly out of time, they’re going to need help just to make the playoffs.

All-Star third baseman David Wright couldn’t find the bag to make an important force play, Oliver Perez hit a pair of batters with the bases loaded and the Mets stumbled out of the NL East lead with a 7-4 loss to the last-place Florida Marlins.

“I think it’s embarrassing,” Wright said in an eerily silent clubhouse. “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.”

New York has lost five straight and 11 of 15 to fall one game back of surging Philadelphia, which beat Washington 6-0. The Mets’ eighth straight home loss dropped them out of first place for the first time since May 15.

“It doesn’t feel real good right now but we’ve still got to get a win so we can have a chance,” 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.”

Everything looked rosy for the Amazin’s when they held a seven-game lead on Sept. 12 with 17 games left, but it’s been mostly downhill from there. They’re on the brink now of an unthinkable collapse: No major league team has blown such a big lead in such a short time at the end of a season.

The Mets aren’t exactly in a good position in the wild-card race, either. They are two games behind San Diego and tied with Colorado.

“It’s hard to believe but it’s the reality,” center fielder Carlos Beltran said. “We haven’t been able to play the game the way we want to.”

They have two games left against Florida at Shea Stadium but they might be better off on the road. The Mets are in the midst of their longest losing streak at Shea since they dropped nine in a row in 2004. The Marlins have won seven of their last nine at the Mets’ home.

Jeremy Hermida hit a two-run homer, Hanley Ramirez had three hits and Dan Uggla scored three runs for the Marlins, who tied a season best with their fourth straight victory. Ramirez also scored twice to give him a franchise-record 125 runs.

“There’s no personal satisfaction other than shaking hands and winning ballgames,” said Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team swept three games from the NL Central-leading Cubs before coming to New York.

Beltran hit a two-run homer and Luis Castillo went 3-for-5 for the Mets, who couldn’t overcome an erratic outing from Perez. They’ll send John Maine to the mound on Saturday, hoping to stave off their dramatic downward spiral.

“I didn’t help my team,” Perez said. “I take this game.”

The Marlins pushed across two runs in the third to take a 4-1 lead as Perez tied a major league record by hitting three batters in one inning. Pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim led off with a single, Ramirez doubled and Perez plunked Uggla with a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Hermida followed with a sinking liner toward Wright, who fielded the one-hopper and threw home for the forceout. Paul Lo Duca then tossed it back to Wright, who had to reach up to corral the high throw. Standing right next to the base, Wright tried to tag Ramirez but missed.

“Got back to third about the same time the ball got there,” Wright said. “Couldn’t find the bag with my foot so I tried to tag him.”

Perez pounded his glove in frustration after the failed double play. He rebounded to strike out Miguel Cabrera but then hit Cody Ross and Mike Jacobs to force in two runs.

The Marlins loaded the bases again in the fourth, after Perez retired the first two batters of the inning. Cabrera’s two-run single off the glove of diving shortstop Jose Reyes made it 6-3 and chased Perez.

“We know they are in a race to qualify,” Cabrera said. “I think this serves as an incentive for us to play hard at the end of the season.”

The Shea Stadium crowd booed lustily as Perez (15-10) bounded off the mound toward the dugout. He allowed six hits, walked two and struck out four after coming in with a 5-1 record and a 2.91 ERA in his previous seven starts.

The Mets played without reserve outfielder Endy Chavez, whose 29-year-old sister, Janeidy, died at a New York hospital after a lengthy illness. Chavez was traveling back to Venezuela for the funeral.

Lo Duca had a bruised left kneecap after taking a foul ball off his leg but X-rays were negative and he could be available Saturday.

Kim (10-8) allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings. He threw two pitches in the sixth before departing with a blister on his right hand.

Taylor Tankersley, Matt Lindstrom, Lee Gardner and Kevin Gregg followed with a scoreless inning apiece, with Gregg earning his 32nd save. Florida’s bullpen has not allowed a run in the last four games.

New York put runners on first and third with one out in the seventh against Lindstrom, who struck out Beltran and Moises Alou to end the inning. Alou went down swinging right after the Phillies finished off the Nationals in Philadelphia.

Notes

A brief pregame shower delayed the scheduled start by 12 minutes. … Cliff Floyd scored 123 runs for the Marlins in 2001. … Wright singled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. … Florida’s Sergio Mitre was the last major league pitcher to hit three batters in an inning, doing it on Aug. 31 against Philadelphia, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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