NEW YORK -- Perhaps no one sentence can sum up the absurdity of Monday's game at Citi Field so much as this: pitcher Jon Niese's pinch-hit triple in the 11th inning was not enough for the Mets, who dropped a 2-1 game on an RBI hit from Marlins reliever Burke Badenhop.
So it went for the Mets in a game that manager Terry Collins described as "uncomfortable from start to finish," a game that featured hits from two pitchers in the 11th inning, a sacrifice bunt from New York's cleanup hitter and an injury to Florida's ace, all following an afternoon filled with talk of David Wright's balky back.
Of course it would end with Niese standing on third base, moments after Badenhop drilled the game-winner up the middle.
"I got about six seconds [of a heads-up] before I got up there," Badenhop said. "[Marlins manager] Edwin [Rodriguez] said, 'Go and get you a game-winning RBI.'"
So he did. Rather than pinch-hit with the last man on his bench, Osvaldo Martinez, Rodriguez allowed Badenhop to take his hacks against Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi. Prior to the at-bat, pitching coach Dan Warthen walked out to the mound to alert Igarashi of Badenhop's reputation as a passable hitter. But after Igarashi fell behind Badenhop and the count ran full, he had no choice but to throw a fastball, which Badenhop slashed up the middle for a go-ahead single.
The game might have been over with that, had Niese -- pinch-hitting because Wright's injury left the Mets shorthanded on their bench -- not tripled over the head of Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio. With two outs, that brought Jose Reyes -- who had already reached base three times in five plate appearances -- to the plate.
"Anybody on this team would say they would expect a hit," Niese said.
"I just knew he was going to get a hit," Collins said. "I just knew Jose was going to get a hit, was going to get something."
But he did not. Marlins closer Leo Nunez threw five consecutive changeups to Reyes, whiffing him on the fifth. Catcher Brett Hayes pumped his fist behind the plate, and the Marlins beat the Mets for the second time in four tries this season.
By the time the game ended, memories of the starting pitchers had faded. Yet for quite some time it seemed that Mike Pelfrey might finally be able to beat the Marlins, and that the Mets might finally be able to beat their nemesis, Josh Johnson. Heading into the game, Pelfrey had not beaten the Marlins since his Major League debut back in 2006, going 0-7 with a 5.77 ERA in his ensuing 12 matchups. But a different Pelfrey climbed atop the mound following an 80-minute rain delay Monday, holding the Marlins to one run over seven innings.
A different Johnson showed up as well, minimizing the offense but allowing an uncharacteristic number of Mets baserunners. He finally cracked for a run on Justin Turner's RBI single in the fourth inning -- and the Mets might have had more had Jason Bay, who led off the inning with a single, not been caught stealing second.
As it was, they forced Johnson to throw 85 pitches in five innings, knocking him out with a right forearm bruise after Carlos Beltran struck him with a one-hopper back to the mound in the fifth.
That led to the later innings and the absurdities. The Mets nearly won the game in the ninth, but Chin-lung Hu -- who was outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo after the game -- grounded into a forceout to end the threat. The Mets gambled in the top of in the inning, intentionally walking Chris Coghlan in order to face three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez -- and it worked. And they gambled to an extent in the bottom of the 10th, asking Bay to lay down a sacrifice bunt for the first time in seven years.
But it was all to no avail, because the offense never came.
"A long day," was how Bay described it. "A weird day."
To win with any consistency going forward, the Mets will need to find offense from atypical sources. Already playing nearly a week's worth of games without regular first baseman Ike Davis, the club acknowledged Monday that Wright may soon join Davis on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back. Of the team's projected Opening Day lineup, only Reyes, Bay and Beltran are playing every day -- and Bay is mired in an 8-for-55 slump dating back to April 28.
The Mets have received surprising contributions from Turner and Jason Pridie, as well as surprising bills of health from Beltran and Reyes. But they cannot continue to depend upon production and health from that crew -- already, Pridie is beginning to slump -- and each new injury makes the team that much thinner.
"It stinks, but baseball is every day," Bay said. "We'll get them tomorrow."