- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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No Cliff Lee. No first place at the All-Star break, either.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey then allowed consecutive seventh-inning homers to Atlanta's Melky Cabrera and Omar Infante as the Mets lost to the Braves 4-2. With the defeat, the Mets dropped four games behind the National League East-leading Braves.
To add insult, ex-Met Billy Wagner notched his 20th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Had the Mets swept the series, they would have drawn even with Atlanta for first place entering the All-Star break.
The worst-case scenario: The Braves win the next two as well, and the Mets are six back.
"It was not going to be won or lost here, but it's definitely going to say something. No question," said left fielder Jason Bay, who went 0-for-3 with a walk, prompting jeers from the Citi Field faithful after an eighth-inning strikeout. "We're still going to play those guys nine or 10 times after this series. You're going to have to beat those guys at some point. They're on quite a roll. We went through that stretch where we were winning a ton of games. They're still in front of us, so that means they were winning a ton of games, too."
Said third baseman David Wright: "Everybody knew the numbers, but I don't think anybody came in here thinking about that in July. We knew we were up against a tough homestand. And we knew we had two first-place teams coming in. It's obviously not good to lose the first series and then to lose the first game of the second series. But if we can rebound and find a way to take tomorrow and have some momentum going into Sunday, I think that we'll take two out of three from Atlanta."
The game was tied at two entering the seventh inning thanks to Dickey's offense. He produced a pair of hits and scored twice -- on a Wright sacrifice fly and on a Reyes liner to left field that Eric Hinske misread and played into a double.
Dickey ultimately was charged with four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings. Manager Jerry Manuel pinned the loss on the offense, which has hit a mini-rut, having scored a combined six runs in the past three games against division leaders Cincinnati and Atlanta.
"We went through a little run there where we were easily putting up five, six, seven runs," Bay said. "All of a sudden, it's kind of slowed down a little bit, a lot like early on. Early on we were struggling to score some runs and turn it around."
Said Wright: "It's not the best of situations. We have a switch-hitter [Reyes] that's hitting right-handed against everybody, which obviously is not ideal. And then there are some guys banged up and some guys scuffling. I know that the guys are looking forward to the All-Star break, but we can't get complacent and start playing sloppy baseball with two games left. We've got to finish up as strong as possible and get these guys rested and ready to go for the second half. It's not an ideal situation, but this is where we're at. And we need to find a way to get it done."
The bottom line, according to right fielder Jeff Francoeur: "We don't look at it as, 'We've got to be two back. We've got to be even with them.' Obviously you don't want to get swept to finish at the All-Star break and have a 1-5 homestand. We've got Pelf and Santana going the next two days, and we feel confident we can get both of those."
The Mets' shot at a midseason milestone was ended by the Braves on Friday.