The New York Mets were defeated by the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon by the score of 6-4, thus losing two of their last three and ending their six game home-stand at an even 3-3.
Sure, it was just one series loss. Heck, it was just one game.
But it was the continuation of a rather unsettling trend for the Mets—they have now lost all six of the rubber games they have played in 2010.
If you throw out those six games, the Mets are 18-10. They know how to play winning baseball, so why do they have such problems when three game series are on the line?
The only other teams with winning records who are under .500 in series deciding games besides the Mets are the Padres (1-4) and the Rangers (1-3). Only the lousy Orioles (0-1) and the underachieving Cubs (0-3) join the Mets as win-less in such contests.
But no team in baseball comes close to the Mets rubberized mark of 0-6.
Perhaps it is just a statistical anomaly—but recent history would tell us otherwise.
Last season the Mets went 7-11 in rubber games, including an 0-4 start. This is a disturbing trend. Although 2009 was marred by injuries, the club was 18-14 exactly one year ago, so parallels can be drawn to the current team.
One would think Oliver Perez, their least reliable starting pitcher, would have to somehow be a part of this growing problem. However, he hasn't pitched in any of these games.
Believe it or not, Johan Santana has lost two of them—one to Livan Hernandez and another to Jamie Moyer, two pitchers whose ages are barely lower than the average speeds of their fastballs.
The majority of the six losses are stuck in the minds of Mets fans alike.
There was the 5-3 loss at St. Louis, the day after the Mets won a 20 inning game, where Jerry Manuel clearly out-managed Tony LaRussa. The Mets staked John Maine to an early 3-0 lead, only to lose on a Ryan Ludwick two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Then there was the Sunday night massacre at Philadelphia where the Mets gave Johan Santana two separate three run leads, only to see him completely melt down in the fourth inning by giving up eight runs.
On the last game of their most recent road trip, they lost at Cincinnati on a walk-off home run by Orlando Cabrera. It's worth noting that both losses in that series came via a walk-off blast.
And finally, in Wednesday afternoon's galosh-like loss at a misty Citi Field, Nationals reserve outfielder Roger Bernadina hit a two-run home run off Francisco Rodriguez to break a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth inning. It was Bernadina's second career home run. The first one just happened to come earlier in the very same game.
In actuality the baseball season is 162 distinctly unique games. But for fans, players, and managers it's impossible not to look at it as a series of...well, series.
You always hear players and managers say how important it is to win series. It can build morale and momentum. It can be the difference between a joyous flight to the next city and perhaps a somber one.
Of course the Mets have won their share of series this season. They do have a winning record, after all.
But when it comes to rubber games, the Mets are in the basement. They score less runs in those games (3.1 compared to 4.6 in all others) and their normally reliable pitchers have not gotten it done. Combine that with last year's struggles and there may be reasons for concern at this point.
Perhaps this whole issue can be considered a coincidence. Over the course of a long season baseball has been known to provide some off the wall stats and records that don't correlate with how a team or player is performing overall.
Coincidence or not, the Mets just lost their sixth straight rubber game. Hopefully, for New York fans, they'll bounce back.
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