Usually, when the names Tom Seaver and Jon Matlack are brought up, it’s a good thing for the Mets.
But Sunday, the Mets accomplished something that hadn’t happened in 42 years — they lost the second of back-to-back 1-0 games at home. This time, Jon Niese (Saturday) and Dillon Gee (Sunday) were the losing pitchers, joining Seaver and Matlack — who suffered the same fate against the Cubs at Shea Stadium on April 17 and 18, 1973, the previous time the Mets lost back-to-back 1-0 games at home.
The defeat to the Nationals — the Mets’ seventh in their last 10 — also made the 11-game win streak that put the Mets in baseball’s spotlight just a week ago, seem a distant memory, with an anemic offense and shoddy infield defense dragging the Mets (16-10) down and disappointing a crowd of 41,048 on an otherwise gorgeous Sunday in Queens.
The loss, the Mets’ 17th in their last 19 against the Nats at Citi Field, dropped Gee to 0-2. His only blemish came in the first when Ruben Tejada took a flip from Dilson Herrera but failed to turn a double play. Instead of two outs, nobody on, the Nats had Yunel Escobar on first, and he scored after back-to-back singles by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman for the lone run of the game.
In their 11-game winning streak, the Mets averaged over five runs a game. In the last 10 games, they have averaged just 2.8. The heart of their order — Michael Cuddyer, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy — were a combined 0-for-12 Sunday.
Cuddyer, who homered in Friday’s win over the Nats, saw his average plummet to .231. Curtis Granderson, who went 1-for-4, is hitting .233 in the leadoff spot.
“We weren’t getting hits. Really, it’s as simple as that,” said Cuddyer, who did save a run when he robbed Zimmerman of a homer with a dazzling catch at the wall in the fourth. “When we did get guys in scoring position, we weren’t able to get the big hit. When we were winning last week, and the week before that, we were getting that big hit.”
It’s now been 18 straight scoreless innings, dating back to Friday night’s eighth inning, since the Mets had an RBI hit. Even that hit was a gift since Jayson Werth misplayed a Daniel Murphy line drive into a three-run double.
After getting blanked on six hits Saturday by Gio Gonzalez and Washington relievers, the Mets went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Sunday. The biggest threat came in the eighth when the Mets had runners on second and third with one out, but Duda and Cuddyer both whiffed. In the four-game series, the Mets were just 4-for-23 (.174) with runners in scoring position.
Part of that was the Nationals’ strong pitching. Doug Fister (2-1) has always been tough on the Mets and Sunday he threw 6.1 shutout innings, scattering five hits and striking out three. He improved to 5-0 with an ERA of 0.82 in five career starts against the Mets.
“They threw the ball well the last two days, as well as our guys did,” said Murphy, whose average fell to a dismal .204 with his 0-for-4 Sunday. “We just didn’t capitalize on a couple of opportunities, myself included today. I had a chance yesterday too and I didn’t come through.”
Granderson and Juan Lagares led off the first with back-to-back singles off Fister, but Duda and Cuddyer flew out and then Murphy grounded out to second to strand them. The Mets did not get a runner in scoring position again until the seventh, when Kevin Plawecki hit a one-out double, but Tanner Roark came in to strike out Ruben Tejada — starting at shortstop for the second straight game — and get Herrera to fly out to right to keep the Mets scoreless.
“You see it in guys swinging on balls out of the zone pretty consistently throughout the lineup,” said Terry Collins, whose team has just three wins (two started by Matt Harvey) since the end of the 11-game win streak. “We are swinging at a lot of balls in the dirt with two strikes. I know hitting is not easy, make no mistake, but you’d like to see some guys bring the ball up a little bit, even if they make a great pitch on them, instead of chasing something you know you can’t hit.”
The brightest moment for the Mets came from Alex Torres, who inherited a no-out, bases-loaed jam from Gee and whiffed Fister, Denard Span and Escobar to get out of it.
“I thought that was going to give us a huge energy boost and we could come back in and get some runs, but we just couldn’t get squared up,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’re not getting big hits, that’s for sure. The middle of our lineup, we got neutralized pretty much today.”
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