Commentary

Mets end August on a painful note

After loss to Braves, the Amazin's are two games under .500 for first time since May

Updated: September 1, 2010, 3:32 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

ATLANTA -- Meaningful games in September?

As 2007 and 2008 demonstrated, they're not worth the pain anyway.

[+] EnlargeJon Niese
AP Photo/John BazemoreJon Niese has had a very good rookie season, but this was a night to forget.

Second baseman Luis Castillo committed a costly error on a potential double-play grounder and David Ross belted a grand slam later in a seven-run fifth inning that chased rookie left-hander Jonathon Niese as the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets, 9-2, on Tuesday night at Turner Field.

The loss dropped the Mets to 65-67 and snapped a string of 27 straight games in which the team had remained within a game of .500. That streak had been the third-longest in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Only the 1939 Brooklyn Dodgers (who remained within a game of .500 for 39 straight games) and the 1959 Chicago Cubs (29 games) had longer streaks.

The Mets dropped two games under .500 for the first time since they were 21-23 on May 22.

By the latter innings, about the only suspense was whether right fielder Jeff Francoeur would be pulled mid-game if a trade with the Texas Rangers could be consummated. (Francoeur completed the game, picking up his National League-high 11th outfield assist, and was shipped out afterward.)

Niese flirted with danger throughout his 4⅔ innings. The leadoff batter reached in each inning he pitched. Still, Niese managed to keep the Braves off the scoreboard until the fourth, when Derrek Lee delivered an RBI single.

The Mets actually took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on bases-loaded sacrifice flies by Francoeur and Henry Blanco, but the game unraveled the following half-inning.

Niese plunked Nate McLouth to open the bottom of the fifth. Castillo then misplayed a routine grounder by Omar Infante for an error on what could have been a double play. Jason Heyward followed with a two-run double. By the time the seven-run frame had ended, Ross had belted the 10th grand slam against the Mets this season. The Mets, incidentally, have hit zero grand slams this year.

"I left the ball over the plate way too much, and they put good swings on it," Niese said.

It was an ugly night all around, with even the positives actually negatives. Ruben Tejada, who has underwhelmed at the plate, produced hits in his first two at-bats Tuesday. However, the second single came on a bunt with a runner on first base and two out in the third inning. As the No. 8 hitter, Tejada unadvisedly left the responsibility for driving in a run to Niese, who struck out to end the half-inning.

Third baseman David Wright continued his underwhelming production against the Braves, too. Wright went 0-for-3 with walk and was pulled from the lopsided loss in the eighth inning on a double-switch in which left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano entered. Wright is now hitless in 28 at-bats this season at Turner Field, and is hitting .065 (3-for-46) overall against the Braves in 2010.

"We load 'em up. We get the sac flies. They load 'em up. They hit 'em out," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "A little different."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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