NEW YORK -- The Mets' shortcomings with runners in scoring position is no secret -- as a team, they own a .225/.320/.342 slash line in those situations entering Sunday's series finale -- and it cost them again Saturday. Most notably, Matt den Dekker struck out with the bases loaded in the fourth which squashed New York's best scoring chance.
Although the margin of loss Saturday -- five runs -- was larger than it has been on other occasions, the lesson is clear -- in many instances, one well-timed hit can change the course of the game. That might've been the case Saturday if den Dekker cut into what, at the time, was a four-run deficit, and it certainly would've been the case in many of the Mets' close losses this season.
New York is 8-17 in one-run games. It has suffered only six losses by five or more runs.
So what, exactly, do the coaches want Mets batters to do in those situations? In short, don't try as hard.
Manager Terry Collins explained Saturday that with the bases loaded in particular, his hitters should wait for the ball to get to the plate -- and deeper in the strike zone. This will make them work to all fields.
"That is probably mentally the best approach you can take, in my opinion," Collins said. "Quit worrying about hitting a homer, think about making contact."
It works -- just ask those who have ended up with the best possible outcome in those situations. The Mets have three grand slams this season, one from Ike Davis in April, and two more this month from Wilmer Flores and Taylor Teagarden. In the cases of the Mets still with the team, neither was trying to hit one over the fence at the time of his at-bat.
"[Phillippe Aumont] wasn't throwing strikes," Flores recalled of his June 2 blast against the Phillies. "And I was just trying to get a swing. [With a] 3-1 count, I was just trying to drive a ball.
"Bases loaded, you don't want to get too excited because then you're reaching for the ball and all of a sudden you get a ground ball. Just try to stay calm. You have to try to drive the ball."
Teagarden, who hit his grand slam Tuesday in his first game with the Mets team, had a similar, simple approach.
"I was trying to shorten up and just get a base hit," Teagarden said. "And it was just elevated enough to drive it out to right field."
Matsuzaka exits early with severe upset stomach
NEW YORK -- With the Mets' bullpen hurting and the team halfway through a stretch of 13 straight games, manager Terry Collins was looking for a lengthy outing from Daisuke Matsuzaka on Sunday. He didn't get it.
The right-hander lasted just one inning before exiting with a severe upset stomach in the Mets' 3-1 win over the Padres. After the second of two walks in a scoreless first inning for Matsuzaka, Collins and a trainer visited the mound. Matsuzaka stayed in the game to retire Chase Headley, but did not return for the second.
"I came to the ballpark today and I had breakfast and started to feel some pain in my stomach, and I just vomited everything out," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "I knew I wasn't physically fit to fulfill the starter's role, but I wanted to do as much as I could. That ended up being only one inning."
Matsuzaka explained that he didn't know what made him ill, but he didn't think it was the food since some of his teammates ate it as well.
Collins knew prior to the game Matsuzaka was having issues. He got sick in the clubhouse, then again in the bullpen while warming up. Matsuzaka's first pitch was an 85-mph fastball that was well high and away.
"That wasn't going to work," Collins said.
During the first-inning mound visit, Collins' question was simple: Could he finish the inning?
"He said, 'I have no strength, but I can finish the inning,' Collins relayed. "We had to get him out of there."
Right-hander Carlos Torres took the hill in the second inning in Matsuzaka's place. The Mets entered Sunday's game with a five-man bullpen given that Dana Eveland and Gonzalez Germen were out after throwing two innings apiece on Saturday.
This leaves the Mets short, again, to start their series against the Cardinals on Monday. There are a number of moving pieces on the 25-man roster -- tired relievers, Eric Young, Jr. about ready to return from the disabled list -- and a move is possible.
Another option is Matsuzaka pitching in relief Monday.
"If I'm physically fit to go tomorrow, I'd definitely like to help out the bullpen," Matsuzaka said.
Back feeling better, Mejia earns two-inning save
NEW YORK -- As if the two perfect innings of relief weren't enough, Jenrry Mejia's post-save celebration -- two hands pointed toward the sky and an emphatic knee lift -- made it clear: His back is just fine.
The right-handed closer made a triumphant return to the mound in the Mets' 3-1 win over the Padres on Sunday, his first game since leaving Thursday's contest with a tight lower back. The club had been taking it day to day, and his appearance Sunday was something of a surprise given that manager Terry Collins suggested that Mejia might land on the disabled list.
"If he can't go today, we have to take a serious look," Collins said Sunday morning. "We're [playing] with a four-pitcher bullpen right now."
Not so. Collins brought Mejia in for the eighth inning, that way if his back locked up again, Jeurys Familia would be available right behind him. Mejia earned a second inning of work when he retired San Diego in short order in his first. It was his second two-inning save of the season and seventh overall.
"They just say I was going to throw just the eighth inning and maybe Familia throw the ninth," Mejia said. "But, you know, I threw just [six] pitches, and they said, 'You feel good to go out there again?' I said, 'I'm good, I feel ready.'
"I knew I wasn't going to be on the DL. I already told [the coaches Saturday] I feel pretty good, so they stretched my back, did treatment. Today I tell Terry and everybody I feel pretty good."
Mejia didn't throw off a mound until Sunday, but when he did, there were no ill effects from the tightness that had been bothering him. Mejia's pregame activity went off without a hitch and set the rest of his day in motion.
"He played catch and said he was fine," Collins said. "In about the sixth inning, [pitching coach Dan Warthen] and I talked about how we were hopefully going to set up the eighth inning. We went to Jenrry and said, 'We're going to have to bring you in earlier than we want to.'"
Montero strains left oblique in Triple-A outing
NEW YORK -- The Mets' already-short bullpen depth took another hit this weekend. Right-hander Rafael Montero left his start with Triple-A Las Vegas after just five pitches with what the team is calling a strained left oblique.
Montero pitched in four games for the Mets this season, posting a 5.40 ERA and 1.60 WHIP before being sent back to the Minors to work on his control issues. With him sidelined indefinitely, however, the Mets have one less option should they ever need a spot-starter.
New York has already inserted Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jacob deGrom into the Major League rotation, so the options behind the current starting five are a little thin. Top prospect Noah Syndergaard is highly touted, and while he is on the disabled list for the second time in a month -- this time with a sprained A/C joint in his left shoulder -- his development isn't expected to be seriously hindered.
Manager Terry Collins stayed positive while discussing the team's Minor League options.
"We're very happy with our depth right now with what we've got," Collins said. "We've got certainly Montero, Syndergaard and a number of other guys who are waiting for their chance. I like our depth."
Beyond Syndergaard, righty Logan Verrett (4.79 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) has been the only mainstay in the Las Vegas rotation.
The wild card is Dillon Gee, who has been on the disabled list since May 11 with a strained right lat. He was expected to throw off a mound this weekend, and he will join the Mets in Miami this week to throw a bullpen.
"Hopefully, by the end of next week, he can head out into a rehab assignment someplace," Collins said. "We're very excited that he's coming back."
• Eric Young, Jr. -- who is rehabbing his strained right hamstring -- went 0-for-6 with a walk and two strikeouts in two games with Double-A Binghamton on Saturday. He also stole a base and scored a run. He could return to the Mets early this week.
• The team's other injured outfielder, Juan Lagares, isn't as close to returning from a right intercostal strain. Collins said he's running, throwing and hitting off of a tee.
"He's not doing any rigorous baseball stuff yet," Collins said. "He's a long way -- when I say a long way, he's days from getting in the lineup for sure."
• Curtis Granderson, who has been nursing a sore left calf, made his return to the lineup Sunday, batting first and playing center field. He made his presence known right away with a leadoff homer in the first.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.