Mets aren't giving up just yet

Reviewing Terry Collins' lineup for Sunday's game makes you wonder how this was a team that had been just three outs from claiming first place in three different innings back in D.C. only a few days earlier.

Vinny Rottino, Omar Quintanilla, Mike Nickeas and Jordany Valdespin comprised the bottom four in the order. Heck, Jason Bay -- now 0-for-11 since returning from the disabled list -- was occupying the No. 2 slot.

And yet there the New York Mets were again Sunday afternoon, seven outs from a win in the Bronx that would have salvaged the series finale. Seven outs from having a 6-7 record at the midpoint of a stretch of eight straight series against teams with winning records.

That's by no means stellar. But it would be the type of four-series performance against credible opponents that would allow them to tread water until a three-game series against the woeful Chicago Cubs begins at Wrigley Field on June 25.

Instead, though, third baseman David Wright errantly short-hopped Rottino at first base with a two-out throw in the seventh. And Russell Martin made the Mets pay with a Yankee Stadium-tailored two-run homer.

And Quintanilla committed an error at shortstop, no matter how the official scorer chose to score it. And the Mets paid again.

And Jon Rauch eventually served up another homer to Martin as the Yankees claimed a 5-4 win.

And nine days after Johan Santana's no-hitter had further energized a franchise and legitimized what seemed to be happening in Queens, the Mets find themselves at a crossroads, needing to go to Tampa Bay to revive their season.

Tampa Bay!

"It does feel rough," outfielder Scott Hairston said. "It's not a letdown. We came in here and wanted to win the series. It was a big series for us. Every team goes through their ups and downs. And, yeah, we just had our downtime. I think now it's time to get back on the horse, so to speak, and hopefully win the series down in Tampa Bay."

Said Collins: "Well, everybody goes through a bad stretch. And this is ours. No matter what move we made, it didn't work. We've got to fight through it and battle through it and pick each other up. … We'll take a day off, catch our breath and get after it in Tampa."

For those who viewed the Mets' early success as smoke and mirrors, here is your chance to say, "told you so."

The reality is the Mets were playing over their heads.

That's fine, too. The product has been compelling as we wait for better days, for right-hander Zack Wheeler to rise from Double-A Binghamton, and for the farm system to produce other contributors, as well.

Still, the 2012 Mets are not resigning, even if Washington went to Boston and swept the Red Sox after taking two of three from the Mets. That leaves the Amazin's now a season-high 4½ games out of first place.
Collins described the Mets as "angry" after Sunday's sloppiness resulted in a sweep.

Yet Collins maintained the same tenacity the Mets have displayed throughout the season will remain.

"Absolutely," Collins insisted. "We won't let it change."

Said Wright: "We're always angry when we lose. Standings-wise this is a loss, and it's probably a game that we should have won, and we would have liked to have won. But you give a good team an opportunity with extra outs and they're going to find a way to beat you. And those guys did that."