The New York Mets' roller coaster of a season is headed downhill again.
The Mets' offense sputtered along on Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss to the last place Washington Nationals. They managed just four hits against Odalis Perez, Mike Hinckley, and Joel Hanrahan, and they spoiled an excellent outing from Mike Pelfrey.
David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado are now a combined 1-23 in the last two games against the Nationals.
The loss was New York's third in a row and fourth in the last five games. This has now dropped them out of first place in the NL East. They trail the division leading Phillies by a half game, but lead the struggling Milwaukee Brewers by the same margin in the wild-card race.
Another blow was dealt to the swooning Mets in the fifth inning. Left fielder Fernando Tatis dove for a bloop hit by Washington pitcher Odalis Perez, didn't make the catch, and stayed on the ground grimacing in pain.
He left the game, and it was later reported that Tatis had separated his right shoulder. After the game, Jerry Manuel said in reference to Tatis: "He's done."
So, a big part of the Mets' success will be gone for the remainder of the season. Tatis has been the most clutch hitter for the Mets this season. He began seeing regular at-bats with the big-league club on May 20, and just six days later he delivered a huge walk-off double at Shea against Florida.
Tatis had a .392 batting average with runners in scoring position. In 39 at-bats in late and close situations (seventh inning or later with game tied, a one-run game, or tying run at least on deck), Tatis hit .308 with three home runs and 12 RBI.
In July, the month in which the Mets ran off a 10-game winning streak, Tatis was one of the hottest hitters in the NL with a .397 average.
With Tatis out for the year, rookies Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans will see most of the playing time in left field. This is nothing to fret about, as Murphy and Evans have been contributing offensively.
Murphy has excellent plate discipline, and in 89 major-league at-bats has hit .360 with a .448 on-base percentage. Murphy has also come through in the clutch (.333 avg with RISP), namely with a go-ahead, pinch-hit homer against Florida, and a game-winning double against the Phillies. He will see more playing time than Evans.
Evans will play against left-handed starting pitchers. He is hitting .270 in 100 MLB at-bats, but he has ripped lefties to the tune of a .338 average in 65 at-bats.
Both of these youngsters are converted infielders, so neither is very adept defensively in left. So, Jerry Manuel will often use Endy Chavez as a defensive replacement late in games.
Tomorrow will likely be a battle of the bullpens (oh boy), with Brandon Knight making his second start of the season for the Mets, and Shairon Martis making his third career start for the Nationals.
The Mets' offense will need to break out against the rookie in order to swing the momentum in their favor.