WASHINGTON -- Even with a wave of injuries weighing down the Mets' roster, Carlos Beltran still believes.

With stars Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes nursing injuries, and Friday's announcement that key reliever J.J. Putz likely will miss at least three months with a right elbow injury, Beltran doesn't have to try hard to envision his club among baseball's best.

"I don't have to think that. I believe we are," Beltran said. "We have talent. Right now, there's a lot of people out, but we still believe we're better than a lot of teams."

Beltran defended his club's potential while defending his own statement, uttered after the Mets were swept in Pittsburgh earlier in the week. The Mets' center fielder said he was "embarrassed" to drop three straight against the Pirates.

On Friday in Houston, Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche shot back, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "I think it shows zero class and zero professionalism. When somebody says that, they know what they're saying, and they know it's going to get out. He knows we're not going to be real happy about it. If you go and say that to your buddies, it's one thing. If you go to the media and make that public for us to hear, yeah, that's no class.

"You know," LaRoche continued, "if we're as bad as he says we are and we swept them, then what's that make them?"

Beltran responded Saturday afternoon without having seen or heard LaRoche's comments.

"I don't know what he said, but what I said was in a way, as a team, we feel embarrassed," Beltran said. "Being honest -- I don't care what he said. I believe we're a better team than them. I don't care what he said."

Beltran was also asked to address the team's baserunning blunders from Friday night's 3-1, 10-inning win. Beltran was gunned down at third base for the third out of the first inning while trying to stretch a double into three bases. It was the first of three outs the Mets would make at third base. The other two were made by third baseman David Wright, who accepted blame but noted the errors were made out of aggressiveness, not passive action.

"I'm going to make mistakes," Beltran said. "I'm not going to be perfect all the time. We're human beings, we're not machines. You have to realize sometimes we're going to be able to make mistakes. The thing is, we can't afford to make those every day."

In particular, manager Jerry Manuel is asking Beltran and Wright to take more of a leadership role with his other stars out of the lineup.

"We know that we have a lot of responsibility," Beltran said. "We are basically our everyday players. Everybody is going to follow us. At the same time, I understand Jerry's point. He wants us to do things right. That's great. He also believes that we can lead this team to play better baseball. I appreciate that. I believe we can do that also."