One day after general manager Sandy Alderson reaffirmed his belief that the Mets are better than the sum of their record, the persistent failure of timely hitting sunk them again in a 5-3 loss to the Rangers Saturday night at Citi Field.
The Mets, who fell to 38-49, fought to overcome an early 5-0 deficit but left the bases loaded in the third inning and failed to hit with runners in scoring position in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings. They were 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and have a .228 batting average with RISP this season, ranking 25th in the majors.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis (6-5) was lifted in the bottom of the seventh inning after allowing three runs, two of them earned, and eight hits. He struck out seven and walked none. Neal Cotts put the Mets down in order in the seventh but walked pinch hitter Chris Young to begin the eighth and was relieved by Shawn Tolleson, who proceeded to walk pinch hitter Eric Campbell.
After fouling off a bunt attempt and looking at a called strike, Juan Lagares grounded into a double play, and Young was left on third when Travis d'Arnaud flied out.
Asked why he had Lagares bunt, manager Terry Collins bristled. "The thought process was to stay out of the double play," Collins said. "[Lagares] hasn't been swinging good in a while."
Pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis managed a one-out double in the ninth off reliever Joakim Soria, but Curtis Granderson popped to third and Daniel Murphy struck out.
Mets starter Bartolo Colon (8-6) came into the game as the Mets' most effective pitcher since May 17, compiling a 6-1 record with a 2.20 ERA in that span. But Colon gave up three or more runs in the first inning of back-to-back starts for the first time in his long career.
Consecutive one-out doubles by Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios produced the first run. Leonys Martin drew a two-out walk, and Robinson Chirinos pounded a 1-and-2 fastball into the bullpen in right-centerfield for a three-run homer.
In the top of the third, Adrian Beltre hit another Colon fastball over the wall in left for his second homer in as many games and a 5-0 lead.
Knowing the Mets are short-handed in the bullpen, Colon settled down and gutted out seven full innings. "He's a professional," Collins said. "He knew we needed innings. As we've seen, as the game goes on, he gets better."
"I had trouble getting pitches where I wanted them in the first inning," Colon said. "But I fought through it and felt better after that."
It was a steep hill for the light-hitting Mets to climb, but Ruben Tejada poked a leadoff single in the third. Colon, who can be comical with a bat in his hands, swung away with third baseman Beltre charging the plate expecting a bunt. Beltre gloved the chopper but threw the ball into centerfield for an error.
Granderson doubled to left to drive in Tejada with the Mets' first run and send Colon to third. Murphy sent a blooper to short leftfield that Shin-Soo Choo gloved but couldn't hold for a single that loaded the bases.
David Wright, who missed the previous seven games with a bruised left rotator cuff, hit a fly ball to center that wasn't deep enough for Colon to score, but Bobby Abreu drilled an RBI single to right. The Mets then stranded three runners when Lucas Duda struck out and Lagares hit into a force at second.
The Mets got the big blow they were waiting for in the fourth inning when d'Arnaud led off with a home run to deep left on a first-pitch fastball from Lewis to cut the deficit to 5-3. But that was as close as they could get.