WASHINGTON -- In hushed tones, the Mets spoke not as a fallen team but as one on the brink. They fully acknowledged that much in the aftermath of Tuesday's 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Nationals, a fifth straight defeat that saw them cough up two late leads.
"This is the Major Leagues and you've got to be able to fight," manager Terry Collins said. "You've got to be able to fight until your last breath. And we're going to continue to do it until we don't have anybody left."
That view was the predominant one in an otherwise quiet visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. Reliever Pedro Beato broke his silence only to bemoan the breaking ball that he spit into the dirt, allowing Ryan Zimmerman to race home with the winning run in the 10th. Catcher Josh Thole lamented his inability to block it. Jordany Valdespin recounted the details of his earlier heroics, which nearly won the game. Jason Bay quietly accepted Collins' decision to pinch-hit for him.
But the overarching message was a vow to regroup. The Mets have now lost five consecutive games and are rapidly fading out of contention. They have proven to be a resilient bunch in the past. But they also know that if they do not reverse course now, this final opportunity for resiliency may pass them by.
"There are some guys that are really upset in the other room, and they should be," Collins said of his players. "It's time to reach down inside and pull out whatever you've got left, and make something out of the remainder of this trip."
The Mets thought they had done so Tuesday, scratching out one-run leads in the ninth and 10th innings against one of the league's best bullpens. But after Tim Byrdak coughed up a leadoff hit in the bottom of the 10th, gave up Bryce Harper's game-tying triple -- "I was thinking three out of the box," Harper said -- and intentionally walked the next two batters, Beato entered with the bases loaded and two outs.
He fired two strikes to Tyler Moore. He threw a ball. And then he curved a pitch in the dirt, skipping it past Thole and allowing Zimmerman to score.
"I've got to block that," Thole said. "That's the bottom line."
Thole had given the Mets their second lead of the night in the top of the inning, doubling home Daniel Murphy with two outs. But the Mets had already seen that script sour once before; in the ninth, Valdespin pinch-hit for Bay and launched a go-ahead, three-run homer off closer Tyler Clippard, only to watch Bobby Parnell cough up a game-tying hit in the bottom of the inning.
Relying excessively on his curveball, Parnell might have escaped his fate had the Nationals not worked a hit-and-run to perfection, with Adam LaRoche punching a ball through the vacated hole on the left side of the infield. But bounces, lately, have not gone New York's way.
"I don't have time or energy to waste to get mad at myself," Parnell said. "That goes for everybody. We don't have the time or the energy to waste to get mad at ourselves. We've got to keep going out there and proving."
Continuing their struggles against left-handed pitching, the Mets went scoreless in seven innings against Nationals starter Ross Detwiler, with Bay leading the cast of culprits. Activated from the disabled list earlier in the day to help the Mets match up against Detwiler, Bay instead hit into a critical double play in the second inning to stunt a three-hit rally. Then he popped up with a man on third base and one out in the seventh, giving him no recourse when Collins pinch-hit for him in the ninth.
"With the way I've been swinging, I'm not really in a position where I can argue with him," Bay said. "We're in the business of winning games right now. That's the reality."
The byproduct was a no-decision for Mets starter Jon Niese, who gave up just one run -- a Moore solo homer -- in seven innings. The main product was a team loss that exposed many of the Mets' deficiencies. For the umpteenth time this season, they did not hit a left-handed pitcher. Once again, their 30th-ranked bullpen struggled, this time giving up runs in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings. As a result, the Mets lost for the fifth time in five games.
Now, they stand at the crossroads of their season.
"There are two options," third baseman David Wright said. "Either we stick with it and keep going out there and grinding away like we've done all year, [or we] fold up shop and go through the motions. Hopefully we choose the first."