NEW YORK -- The effort is still there. The Mets insist upon it. But fearing such effort may desert his team over the final month of the season, manager Terry Collins called an impromptu team meeting following Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Rockies at Citi Field.
He did not yell. He did not scream. But he expressed his disappointment in how the Mets, losers of six of their last eight, are playing out the schedule.
"I'm not sure it's lack of effort," Collins said. "It's lack of execution. It's lack of preparation. It's lack of thought."
Tuesday's loss included a critical throwing error by an otherwise stellar Chris Young, a poorly executed rundown, another round of bullpen woes, a second straight offensive struggle against the league's 30th-ranked pitching staff and a baserunning blunder that led to Collins' own ejection.
"I think everybody sees it, including us, that we're playing poorly," third baseman David Wright said. "I don't think we're a bad team. We're just playing very bad right now."
Never in his first 13 starts did Young appear as sharp as he was in the first five innings Tuesday, striking out the first four Rockies he faced and six of the first 12.
But after DJ LeMahieu broke through with an infield single to lead off the sixth and Jonathan Herrera followed with a clean single, Young unraveled. The right-hander threw Jhoulys Chacin's sacrifice bunt high and wide of first base, allowing LeMahieu to score. Then he gave up RBI singles to Charlie Blackmon and Dexter Fowler and a sacrifice fly to Ramon Hernandez, before Fowler was caught stealing to end the inning.
"Like that, it changed," Young said. "And then I compounded the problem by throwing the ball away. That's just the way baseball goes sometimes."
Young lasted seven innings in total, allowing two earned runs and two unearned runs while striking out nine.
It was an adequate outing in spite of the rally, but the Mets could do little to support Young. Chacin held them to just one run -- a Daniel Murphy sacrifice fly -- over six innings, and the bullpen cracked for nothing more than Andres Torres' own sac fly in the seventh. The result was the Mets' third straight loss.
And one very frustrated manager.
It is not often that Collins addresses his team as a group, knowing too many meetings can water down his message. The manager estimated that he has done it three times this season, the first two at critical junctures -- back when the Mets were still in contention.
But just because the Mets have fallen out of the playoff race does not mean Collins is fine with the idea of their effort dissipating. Their hustle evaporating. Their errors compounding.
"He was right in everything he said," Young said. "We've got to play better. We're talented enough and we've got to play better."
"You watch our games, and probably from the outside you can see everything we're seeing," Wright said. "We're not executing. The coaching staff is getting us prepared, and the players, we need to do a better job of going out there and executing. Whether it's pitching, hitting, defense, a lot of the little things we are getting sloppy on. So we need to take responsibility and do a better job."
Perhaps the defining moment of the game -- if not the month -- came in the ninth inning, when the Mets caught Andrew Brown in a rundown but could not properly execute it, allowing the Rockies outfielder to score. It was a superfluous run in a game already well in hand, but it represented exactly the type of mistake that Collins hopes to avoid.
"When you're going bad, it gets blown out of proportion," said Collins, who was ejected for arguing after umpires overturned a call against Torres on a pickoff play in the fifth. "Everybody makes mistakes. My thought is, I don't care what the score of the game is. I don't care what your record is. There has to be a thought process through the three hours that you play."
"We've gotten away from doing the things that made us successful in the first half," Wright said. "It's difficult to hit. It's difficult to pitch. We get that. But it's not difficult to do the basic fundamentals that we're lacking right now."