ATLANTA -- The Mets have no shortage of issues, from an underwhelming bullpen, to underwhelming fielding, to underwhelming performances against left-handed pitching, to thinner starting pitching with Dillon Gee now lost on top of Mike Pelfrey. Yet every time they seem ready to fall out of the race, they answer.
Swept in the Bronx? They answer with a sweep of the Rays.
This time, will there be an answer?
A look at the top four places in the NL East standings after Saturday's action.
The Mets close out a series in Atlanta on Sunday trying to avoid a sweep, with Johan Santana opposing Ben Sheets. They then head to first-place Washington for three games. Afterward, the Mets return home to face the NL West-leading Dodgers, who now have Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier back. Then there is a visit to Flushing by the Nats.
There also is a trip to Arizona and the start of a series at San Francisco before the July 31 trade deadline. By then, conceivably, it could be too late for Sandy Alderson to pull the trigger on a deal that would salvage contention.
The Mets (46-42) now occupy third place in the NL East, 5½ games behind Washington and 2½ behind the Braves, who share the wild-card spots with Pittsburgh.
"You know, we kind of limped into the break," R.A. Dickey said after the Mets lost to Atlanta, 8-7, Saturday at Turner Field. "And now we're kind of limping out of it. We've got to pitch better, myself included. The backbone of our success, I feel like, has been keeping us in ballgames, our pitching staff. So we've got to continue to find a way to do that. Our offense is performing valiantly. We're scoring runs. We've got to maintain leads, especially in innings where we take back a lead, or we score runs. We have to have a shutdown inning. And I didn't do that tonight. I didn't do that in my last start, either, against the Phillies."
Said Ike Davis: "I mean, every game is important. The thing is, we've got a lot of games to play. You lose two here. We're going to hopefully pick up tomorrow, and hopefully go beat Washington, and string some wins together. Two in a row is not the biggest deal in the world. I mean, obviously we want to win the games. If we win 10 straight after this, it comes in waves. Sometimes you get the big hit. Sometimes you don't. Today, we're falling a little short. But if we clean it up a little bit, we can win these games."
Asked if there was an urgency with regards to staying competitive, Dickey added: "Personally, I don't feel any more urgency than I've ever felt. When you've got a losing streak going, or you have one loss going, you want to arrest that immediately. This is an in-division opponent. And so you don't want things to snowball on you. So we have to come out here tomorrow and really compete hard, because we need to at least take one out of this place."