CHICAGO -- The Mets freely admit that they are a tired team, coming off an exhausting five-game series in Philadelphia to start an 11-game road trip through three time zones. They are routinely playing games close to four hours long, if not significantly longer, and manager Terry Collins sees his club's recent inability to hit with men on base as a by-product of that.
The Mets twice left the bases loaded in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Cubs, spoiling the early three-run lead that they'd built. This, a day after the team stranded nine runners over the first six innings of another loss.
"It's just baseball being baseball," outfielder Curtis Granderson said. "The only thing we can do is keep putting pressure on."
On this night, "baseball being baseball" meant following a season-long trend. Trailing by a run in the sixth, New York loaded the bases with two outs, only to watch Granderson strike out to end the inning. That disappointment came an inning after Anthony Recker popped out with the bases full.
"As any hitting coach will tell you, in that situation the pressure's on the pitcher," Collins said. "He's the one that's got the bases full. He's the one that's got to make pitches. All you've got to do is have some patience at the plate. It sounds easy. It's not, obviously, because you want to do good and you want to be the guy that drives the runs in. But we've got to do a better job at that."
In between New York's two bases-loaded rallies, Chicago turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead against starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Mets' oft-used bullpen -- another by-product of those extra-inning games. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro did most of the work, singling home two runs against reliever Dana Eveland. Jeurys Familia entered shortly thereafter, allowing the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch.
Frustration set in from there for a Mets team that had been efficient with the bats early in the game. Drawing five walks off Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, the Mets also took advantage of two Castro misplays during a three-run rally in the first inning. Lucas Duda provided the big blow with a two-out, two-run double.
"I just wanted to try to pick up my teammates," said Castro, who accounted for most of the game's runs, one way or the other. "It's my fault that I made an error that scored three runs for Jackson. If I don't do it on defense, then I try to be aggressive at the plate and get those runs in for him."
Three innings later, Ruben Tejada hit his second homer in 12 plate appearances to give the Mets a two-run cushion. Prior to this week, Tejada had two career homers in 1,508 trips to the plate. But it was not enough for a Mets team that has stranded nine or more runners in five of their past six games.
"I think some of it is a little residue of what we went through in Philly," Collins said, referring to the three consecutive extra-inning games his team played over the weekend, spanning a total of 39 innings. "We got off to a good start. We just haven't been able to add on."
Matsuzaka lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits and five walks, and said, "Overall, I just didn't have my best stuff today."
Considering how valuable Matsuzaka has been in multiple roles this season, the Mets will happily give him a mulligan.
On this night they were significantly more concerned with their offense.
"We've had opportunities to put games away," Collins said. "We've had the bases loaded several times. We're getting guys on -- it's not like we're not getting guys on base. We're just not hitting with guys on base, which is what it's been thus far, the way we've started the season. They haven't let down. I just think sometimes you go through playing all those innings in all those days the way we did, we've just got to find some energy somewhere."