Little by little, the New York Mets have chipped away at that optimistic, bubbly spirit they had produced in the first half.
Now they all but have to start over, having finished their first homestand after the All-Star break 0-6 and 1-11 overall.
It's all added up to a dramatic shift in tone for the Mets, who had few light-hearted moments to offer Wednesday after getting swept by the NL East-leading Washington Nationals to fall 11 1/2 games back.
The Nationals' 5-2 win included a two-run homer by Adam LaRoche in the seventh inning off Tim Byrdak. The lefty, known for his practical jokes, including the introduction of a chicken into the clubhouse, ended up in a dugout confrontation with catcher Josh Thole.
Later, the pair reportedly patched things up, and Thole told reporters, "You lose some ballgames, that's what happens. Everybody starts getting on edge, everybody starts bothering everybody."
The Mets' freefall has changed the tenor of the season, in amazingly rapid fashion. Just a few days after GM Sandy Alderson considered the Mets "buyers" before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, the team has all but ensured it will be anything but.
Now the future looks as relevant as the present as they get their first look at Matt Harvey, who will make his major league debut Thursday at Arizona.
Just last week he was looked at as a possible boost for the Mets' playoff hopes. Now he's likely just another rookie building a foundation that goes beyond this year.