Mets' season takes an ugly turn

All you needed to see was Todd Zeile fluttering knuckleballs toward home plate to know that the Mets had raised the white flag for Monday, which wound up as an embarrassing 19-10 loss to the last-place Montreal Expos. <P> And as the Mets fell to four games under .500 and six games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves, it wasn't hard to imagine the white flag for their season soon following.

Mets manager Art Howe said after Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Braves that it "might be good" for the team to escape New York, but the doldrums of the Mets' 3-7 homestand followed them north to Montreal.

After pitching six strong innings against the Florida Marlins last week, Scott Erickson flopped in his second start as a Met, failing to record an out in a seven-run third inning.

The fielding was equally sloppy, as Ty Wigginton and Mike Cameron committed an error apiece, extending the Mets' Major League-leading error total to 89.

Later, John Franco was again victimized by Tony Batista for a home run -- just as he was on Thursday at Shea -- then was tossed from the game when he plunked Nick Johnson with his next pitch, a two-seamer that missed the inside corner of the plate by about a foot.

It all added up to a miserable night for the Mets, one that looked as though it might provide some comic relief when Zeile got up in the bullpen to pitch the home half of the eighth inning.

Zeile had pitched a scoreless inning on Sept. 14, 2002 for the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his luck ran out north of the border, as the Expos jumped on an array of knuckleballs and 78 MPH fastballs for five runs on four hits in a 31-pitch inning.

With the non-waiver trade deadline approaching on Saturday, it's hard to imagine the Mets as serious contenders for the marquee names on the open market, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates' coveted Kris Benson.

The Mets may not become sellers at the trade deadline, as sources indicate the club has no interest in selling off commodities like Tom Glavine (Boston Red Sox?) and Al Leiter (New York Yankees?), but at this point, they haven't shown anything to indicate they should part with prospects like Matt Peterson or Scott Kazmir for a stab in the dark at what looks like a losing 2004 campaign.

Mets Notes

  • David Wright cracked his first Major League homer in the third inning, a solo shot off of Expos starter John Patterson. Wright's first hit also came against Montreal last Thursday, a double off of Zach Day.

    The homer was part of a four longball attack from the Mets, who scored 10 runs yet were never really in the game. Richard Hidalgo cracked his 15th and 16th homers of the year in the first and fifth innings, respectively, and Mike Cameron connected for his 17th in the fourth inning, all off Patterson.

  • Cliff Floyd told The New York Times that he is considering retirement when his four-year, $26 million commitment to the Mets expires after the 2006 season. Floyd missed a month of this season with a strained quadriceps and had a season-ending operation on his Achilles tendon last season; he has also had operations on his left knee and right wrist.

    "My body is beat up," Floyd told the newspaper. "I want to go out there. I want to play because I really love the game. But I only know what I feel. At this point, two years can't come fast enough."

  • Zeile became the Mets' first position player to pitch in a game since Desi Relaford did it on May 17, 2001 against the San Diego Padres at Shea Stadium.

  • From the credit where credit is due department: Ricky Bottalico and Tyler Yates combined for three innings of scoreless relief. Beyond that, the Mets' pitching was putrid, as Dan Wheeler allowed five runs (four earned) while pitching the third inning and facing five batters in the fourth.

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