At 25-30, the New York Mets are only a game out of last place in the NL East. Since winning three in a row from May 18-20, the Mets have lost eight of their past 11 games.
The frustration was surely building for manager Terry Collins, whose intense personality had burned him out in previous tenures with the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels. As such, the New York media was just waiting for Mt. Collins to erupt.
Well, after the Mets' 9-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night, the tabloids finally got their wish as the first-year manager finally obliged with a postgame rant filled with frustration and anger:
"I'm sick of trying to describe seventh innings—about five in a row," said the fiery Collins, in his first season as Mets manager. "I'm running out of ideas here. I mean, do we play hard? Absolutely. That's not the issue. The issue is not effort. That's not it. It's about execution. We have to add on some points when we get the lead and I'm not looking for home runs. I'm looking for quality at-bats. We can't make careless mistakes. We do. We give up at-bats. We can't do that. We don't have that kind of team."
Since Collins specifically highlighted the seventh inning, during which the Pirates scored five runs, let's look at five Mets' gaffes that surely lit his fuse.
1. Leading off the inning, the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen(notes) hit a ground ball to first base. Daniel Murphy(notes) fielded the ball and flipped it to pitcher Chris Capuano(notes), who ran over to cover. Except Capuano didn't step on first base as he caught the ball. McCutchen was safe.
(In fairness, Murphy bobbled the ball before making the flip and threw behind Capuano, forcing him to reach back. A clean exchange probably would've gotten the out.)
2. On the next pitch, Neil Walker(notes) laid a bunt down the third-base line. Third baseman Willie Harris(notes) was late in getting to the ball — perhaps not expecting a bunt — and couldn't throw out Walker at first base.
3. Two batters later, Chris Snyder(notes) hit a ball to shortstop that Ruben Tejada(notes) fielded cleanly and tossed to third base for a force play. But Harris tried to tag Walker out, rather than just stepping on the bag. Walker slid in headfirst under the tag attempt and was safe.
4. Pitching next to Lyle Overbay(notes), Capuano threw an 89 mph fastball right down the middle that was lined to center field. Angel Pagan(notes) ran over to make the play, but the ball deflected off the end of his glove as he tried to make a sliding catch.
5. Pedro Beato(notes), who replaced Capuano, fell behind Xavier Paul(notes) with a two-ball, one-strike count. With the bases loaded, Beato had to throw a strike, but he teed up a 94 mph fastball in the center of the strike zone. Paul lined it to right field for a single, driving in the go-ahead run. (Carlos Beltran(notes) misplaying the hop didn't help, but the run would've scored anyway.)
As Collins said, the seventh-inning meltdown was about execution. The Mets didn't make the plays that needed to be made, most of which were routine. His team beating itself is what had Collins red-faced as he met with players after the game.
Collins emphasizing execution calls to mind the famous line from Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay in 1976, when his team went 0-14. Asked about his team's execution, McKay said, "I'm in favor of it."