NEW YORK -- Moments after announcing David Wright's discouraging fate, the Mets watched all that went right for them over their first four games fall apart. Their defense betrayed them. Their bullpen became mortal. Their offense grew stagnant. And the Mets' perfection dissolved in a 6-2 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field, their first defeat of the season.
Yet it was not imperfection that stung them so much as news of their third baseman's injury. An X-ray Tuesday revealed that Wright, the team's hottest hitter and de facto captain, had suffered a small fracture in his right pinkie finger, stamping an uncertain timetable on his return.
It was against that backdrop that the Mets wilted vs. Nationals starter Ross Detwiler, who struck out six over five innings of two-hit ball. The first two Mets to face Detwiler both recorded hits, putting runners on the corners with no outs in the first. But Daniel Murphy's strikeout, Jason Bay's popup and Lucas Duda's whiff squelched that rally, and the Mets did not put another runner in scoring position until the seventh.
Fleshing out the middle of the order with Wright injured and Ike Davis on the bench, Murphy, Bay and Duda also went down in succession in the eighth inning, after Ruben Tejada walked and Ronny Cedeno doubled. Where the Mets had thrived in recent days due in large part to Wright's excellence, they floundered Tuesday in his stead.
"Ike wasn't in there; David's not in there," manager Terry Collins said. "It changes some things, obviously."
It changed only everything for the Mets, who won their first four games on the strength of a near-perfect bullpen and just enough timely hitting. Without Wright, Tuesday's first inning became a microcosm of the game for the Mets, who could not mount any consistent sort of attack against Detwiler and a trio of relievers.
At times, they rallied, most prominently in the first and eighth innings. But each one ended the same way.
"My pitch selection was off a little bit," Detwiler said of the first inning in particular. "Right there, I knew I needed to kind of snap into it or it was going to get out of hand pretty quick."
Starter Dillon Gee kept the Mets close until the sixth, but departed after allowing Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff double, Jayson Werth's one-out RBI single and Xavier Nady's base hit. The next batter, Roger Bernadina, hit a potential inning-ending double play ball to second base, where Murphy booted it for an error. The batter after that, Wilson Ramos, hit a double to right field that Duda potentially could have gloved.
In that sense, a defense that had been so strong over the first four games struggled mightily on Tuesday. Murphy in particular muffed three opportunities to turn double plays, once botching a transfer, once booting a ground ball and once throwing his relay well wide of first base.
"It's all a matter of staying out there, being out there and being used to it," Collins said of Murphy and Duda, who are both playing away from their natural positions.
The Nationals finished with 13 hits against seven for the Mets, who chose to rest not only Wright, but also Davis and Josh Thole. Their first run did not come until the seventh inning, when Bay doubled to the warning track in left field and Justin Turner singled him home with a sharp hit to center. But after Kirk Nieuwenhuis walked and pinch-hitter Thole grounded into a forceout, Davis struck out as a pinch-hitter to end the threat.
That much was nothing out of character for the Mets, who are batting .188 through five games with runners in scoring position. They were able to mask that over the weekend with strong starting pitching, even stronger relief and adequate defense.
But Tuesday, they received none of the above. Though Gee pitched relatively well after Ian Desmond's leadoff homer, he racked up 104 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings. The defense then soured his final line, forcing reliever Bobby Parnell to throw 51 pitches of his own.
On this night, the scapegoats were plentiful. And yet the Mets left Citi Field thinking not of Gee or Parnell or Murphy or Duda, but only on the one man who did not play.
"You've seen the way he's been hitting the first few games," Gee said of Wright, remarking on the possibility of an extended absence. "It would be a big hole. But hopefully, it's not too bad and he doesn't have to miss too much time."