ATLANTA - All throughout this cursed road trip, the Mets have not lived up to their status as a first-place team. They have dabbled in slapstick, making adventures out of the most basic tasks.
The reckoning for this carelessness came Saturday night, in a 6-4 defeat to the Braves, one that was punctuated by a comedic parade of botched plays and miscues.
And as if the sloppiness weren't enough -- the price of which was their hold on first place -- starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud left the game after hyperextending his left elbow in a collision at home plate with A.J. Pierzynski.
X-rays were negative, though the team has listed him as day-to-day.
The Mets already went seven weeks without d'Arnaud thanks to a broken finger and wrist injury suffered during his lengthy rehab. His return has been one of the few bright spots for an offense that has shriveled.
On Saturday night, d'Arnaud lined a two-run single in the first to give the Mets a lead, then smacked a game-tying solo shot in the sixth.
Now, after just eight games back, the Mets face the prospect of another absence from a lineup that desperately needs his presence.
His departure gave the Mets -- now a half-game behind the Nationals -- even more reason to wince after yet another embarrassing display of poor defense.
In just one inning, the Mets scored as many runs as they had in their previous three games thanks to d'Arnaud, whose first-inning single made it 2-0. But it would not last.
The slow-footed Pierzynski tripled down the line in the second, then scored on a single by Andrelton Simmons. In the third, Jace Peterson advanced from first to third because the Mets neglected to cover second base on a steal attempt. When d'Arnaud fired to the bag, neither shortstop Ruben Tejada nor second baseman Dilson Herrera had bothered to make a move.
After the miscommunication, Cameron Maybin grounded out and Peterson scored to tie it. In the fourth, the Braves used three meek hits to score twice off Noah Syndergaard, who allowed four runs (three earned) in just four innings.
Their rally was bolstered by yet another brutal Mets miscue.
This time, Juan Lagares attempted to barehand Simmons' single to center. But he failed to pick up the ball, granting Simmons an extra base. He later scored to make it 4-2.
Curtis Granderson's solo shot to straightaway centerfield brought the Mets to within one in the fifth. In the sixth, d'Arnaud hammered his game-tying solo shot.
But the Mets wasted those efforts in the sixth, when yet another careless mistake set up the Braves to push across a pair of runs. With runners on the corners, Eury Perez placed a bunt between the mound and first base. Lucas Duda fielded the ball but reliever Logan Verrett failed to cover the bag.
With the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Pedro Ciriaco lifted a fly ball to left-center. Michael Cuddyer caught it and fired wide of the plate, taking d'Arnaud into the third baseline.
The throw put d'Arnaud on a collision course with Pierzynski, whose knee appeared to awkwardly bend d'Arnaud's elbow as he dropped the ball. Pierzynski then lingered at the plate apparently out of concern for d'Arnaud. In a few moments, he began his slow walk toward the Mets dugout, a fitting image on a night filled with pain.