Commentary

Manuel plans lineup shakeup in L.A.

After 14-inning loss, Mets' manager says he'll sit Bay, Beltran and Barajas on Thursday

Updated: July 22, 2010, 8:29 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PHOENIX -- With the season slipping away, manager Jerry Manuel gathered his players for a 15-minute team meeting before the New York Mets headed to the field for batting practice Wednesday.

His next tactic: shaking up a lineup that finally became whole this week.

After the Mets suffered their 11th walk-off loss this season with a 4-3 setback in 14 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, Manuel predicted he would sit Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Rod Barajas in Thursday's series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Mets mustered only one hit in eight innings against a woeful Diamondbacks bullpen as they were swept out of Arizona and fell to a 1-6 through two legs of a three-city trip to open the second half. The lone victory came on Sunday in San Francisco. And if plate umpire Phil Cuzzi had correctly ruled Travis Ishikawa safe in the bottom of the ninth inning that day, the Mets would have lost that one, too.

The poster child for the Mets' woes is Bay, a $66 million addition who has six homers in 335 at-bats. Bay went 0-for-6 Wednesday and struck out in each of his final four at-bats. Bay is hitting .111 (4-for-36) with no RBIs in his past 10 games. He had slipped all the way to the No. 6 spot in the lineup, and now he'll slip to the bench for at least a day at Dodger Stadium.

With Manuel pledging to rest Beltran as well for the second time since he returned from arthroscopic right knee surgery, that means an outfield alignment of Chris Carter, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur for the series opener in L.A., barring overnight roster turnover.

Only twice had Bay gone hitless in more at-bats in a game. He went 0-for-7 in the Mets' 20-inning game in St. Louis on April 17, and had that same futility for Boston against Tampa Bay on Sept. 10, 2008.

"Just lost," Bay labeled himself now. "Just struggling. Just battling."

As for Manuel's plan to let him watch Thursday, Bay said: "One day off ain't going to cure you. You clear your head, but you've got to go back at it the day after that. I'm in straight battle mode all the time -- just not comfortable."

Said Manuel about his biggest offseason acquisition: "I am somewhat surprised. I really thought this was a good opportunity to kind of get away from the pressures and anxiety that he kind of has when we're in New York. I thought getting out here on the West Coast he would exhale and take off. I'm really somewhat baffled at the struggles that he's having right now. I still feel that he has enough season left to put together a good streak."

Wednesday's game ended in the 14th when Mets reliever Fernando Nieve, in his second inning of work, allowed a Chris Snyder single over Bay's head in left field that scored Justin Upton from second base. The Mets' 11 walk-off losses are the most by the franchise since 1995 -- and that took a full season.

As for the meeting, Manuel suggested the message was to "kind of remind them of the things we did early -- play good defense, that type of thing."

Said the manager: "Just realize where we are. We are in a pennant race. Let's get back on the road and quit swerving so much."

Manuel was not upset with how the message carried over to the field, just disappointed that his lineup -- which finally is whole with Jose Reyes and Beltran back from injuries -- is performing so woefully.

"I felt good about the energy and the stuff that we had on the bench," Manuel said. "We just didn't hit. We did not hit. That's the bottom line. We pitched very well, I thought, for the number of guys we used out there.

"We've got too many guys that are not hitting, and that's not a good way to operate. ... It just kind of shackled us there not to get any hits late against a bullpen that, for the most part, has struggled. That was a little concerning."

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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