Jeurys Familia, the 24-year-old righthander, might have the best pure stuff in the Mets' bullpen. And in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 4-3 loss to the Dodgers, he tried to put it to good use.
With one down, runners on the corners, and the Mets desperately trying to hold the Dodgers' lead to one run, Familia fired a 96-mph fastball at the dangerous Hanley Ramirez. The ball came back to the mound on one hop, which Familia fielded cleanly, exactly as he had hoped.
Then he froze.
In a moment of miscommunication, shortstop Wilmer Flores and second baseman Daniel Murphy both charged at the bag. Confused by the sight, Familia hesitated. By the time he let the ball fly, it was too late to turn two.
Chone Figgins scored an insurance run that came in handy in the ninth, when the Mets rallied for one run, falling just short. "I got the ground ball but it's part of the game," Familia said. "Sometimes, we make mistakes. Tomorrow's a new day."
The Mets find themselves saying that a lot lately, even though those tomorrows have brought nothing but the same. They lost for the sixth time in seven games, falling to five games under .500, the lowest they have sunk this season.
Familia's gaffe provided a convenient snapshot of a team in a tailspin. However, a single moment of panic hardly covers all that has gone wrong for the Mets.
"We've just got to have somebody break loose," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who watched his offense bang out 13 hits but score just three runs.
David Wright is hitting .293 after going 3-for-5, but he has only two home runs, leaving a power shortage in the middle of the lineup. Curtis Granderson has steadily climbed out of the hole he dug for himself, though he has yet to catch fire. And last night, he struck out with the bases loaded to end a threat.
Chris Young had a night of missed opportunities. In the sixth, he hit into a double play to waste Wright's single. In the seventh, he grounded out with runners on second and third to squander another chance, with the Mets down by a run.
Even within what has been the season's most trying stretch, there have been reasons for the Mets to believe that better days lie ahead.
Pitching prospect Jacob deGrom (0-2, 2.77) followed up his impressive debut by holding the Dodgers to three runs in six innings. Though they came on solo shots to Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig, deGrom showed the poise of a veteran.
Rookie Eric Campbell bashed a two-run shot in the sixth -- his first big-league homer -- that cut it to 3-2. Flores tied a career high with three hits. Juan Lagares added three of his own, including a triple in the ninth that led to a run.
In case of a potential double play, Murphy was responsible for covering second base, even though he conceded that "95 percent of the time the shortstop covers." But the Mets played Ramirez to pull.
Still, when the moment came, both Flores and Murphy charged. When Familia looked up, he froze, a moment that haunted the Mets in the ninth.