LOS ANGELES -- Left-hander Oliver Perez will be in store for a horrific greeting at Citi Field, with the venom likely to exceed even the fury once reserved for Armando Benitez, if team officials do not eat the southpaw's contract before the Mets open their next homestand Tuesday.
Yet while Perez served as hero-turned-goat -- well, at least serviceable reliever-turned-goat -- Saturday at Dodger Stadium, the primary culpability belonged elsewhere.
In a repeat of their 14-inning loss in Arizona during the previous stop on this woeful three-city trip, the Mets failed to muster any offense beyond the sixth inning.
The staggering walk-off loss total -- even for a team with a 20-32 road record -- is within two of matching the franchise record of 14 walk-off losses, achieved by the 1974 and '78 editions, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Particularly damning Saturday: After Jose Reyes' run-scoring single with one out in the sixth evened the score at 2, Luis Castillo grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and the Mets never produced another hit. The Dodgers' bullpen retired the final 13 Mets batters in the game. Similarly, in the 14-inning loss in Arizona on Wednesday, the Mets had one hit in the final eight innings against the Diamondbacks' woeful bullpen and lost 4-3.
"We went down too easily in those innings," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I don't know if we're trying to hit it out of the park or what we're trying to do. But that's something we definitely need to address, because that's not what you look for. I thought we did everything we could out of the pen. I thought we did everything to keep it close and didn't mount anything -- didn't have a scare or get a run or anything. I feel we're better than that."
The Mets are 2-8 on a trip through San Francisco, Arizona and Los Angeles since the All-Star break, a stretch that coincided with the returns of Carlos Beltran, Reyes and Castillo from injuries. After R.A. Dickey opposes Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the finale to this four-game series Sunday, the Mets return to Flushing for a challenging series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In a game in which catcher Rod Barajas left with a strained right oblique muscle and Manuel used all but closer Francisco Rodriguez and the four pitchers in the rotation aside from Mike Pelfrey, getting to the 13th inning Saturday was an accomplishment.
An inning earlier, reliever Elmer Dessens appeared poised to turn a double play on Garret Anderson, but the right-hander threw the ball behind Reyes covering second base and into center field, giving Los Angeles runners at the corners with none out.
The untrustworthy Perez, whom Manuel has inserted only twice since the southpaw returned from the disabled list, both times in the 12th inning, ultimately entered with one out and two runners in scoring position.
Somehow, Perez retired the lefty-hitting Andre Ethier on a foul pop-out behind the plate. Perez then intentionally walked Rafael Furcal to load the bases. He escaped by getting Jamey Carroll on a fielder's choice groundout to Castillo at second base.
Perez also retired Matt Kemp on a flyout to open the bottom of the 13th, but Loney then crushed a 1-0 slider from Perez over the right-center wall to end the contest.
Still, while Perez is the convenient villain, consider the squandered opportunities by the Mets at the plate.
In addition to Castillo's bases-loaded double play that ended the sixth, David Wright left two runners in scoring position in the ninth against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton by consecutively swinging through fastballs of 97, 98 and 99 mph. The Mets have been so desperate to score runs, Manuel lifted Pelfrey in the top of the sixth inning for a pinch hitter despite the right-hander being in the midst of a serviceable outing.
"We're not getting hits," Beltran said. "There are times where you hit the ball hard and nothing happens. I don't know. I have no explanation for it, man. It really has been a disappointing road trip. Let's try to end up with a positive note -- winning a ballgame tomorrow and have a day off and then come back Tuesday playing at home."