There was a play in the eighth inning tonight that summed up the critical difference between the Mets and the Phillies. David Wright fielded a grounder from Shane Victorino and threw to first, where the ball bounced off of Daniel Murphy's glove and rolled several yards down the line into foul territory.
Even if Murphy had caught the ball cleanly, it probably would have been a hit; in fact, the play was ruled a hit. After Victorino was safe at first, he continued up the line a few strides, then stopped and started to walk back to first. And then he noticed something.
Nobody on the Mets was going after the ball.
After he couldn't handle the throw, Murphy dropped his head, presumably mad at himself for not making the play. By the time Murphy started going after the ball, Victorino was on his way to second base, which he made easily.
The score was 7-2 at the time, and the play had no bearing on the outcome of the game. But it said a lot about which team was better able to play smart fundamental baseball.
It was not the first mental lapse of the game for the Mets. Earlier, Fernando Tatis, installed at second base even though he has barely played it because he could supply more offense (Tatis is hitting .261 with three homers in 153 at bats), failed to cover second on a single by Jimmy Rollins, who alertly took second.
The Mets could have put on a fundamentals clinic tonight, and it wouldn't have done them any good with Livan Hernandez melting down and the Mets unable to put up much of a fight against retread Rodrigo Lopez.
There are two new disturbing trends with the Mets. It's one thing to struggle against the Sabathias and Gallardos. But in the span of four days, the Mets have been helpless against journeymen Lopez and Mike Burns.
Meanwhile, each member of the patchwork part of the Mets' rotation, Hernandez, Tim Redding and Fernando Nieve, has now failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his last start.
No pitching. No hitting. No fundamentals. Oh, and the Braves are now tied with the Mets for third and could pass them tomorrow.
Who would have thought that Fourth of July might mean fourth place.