WASHINGTON -- Shortly after his New York Mets finished yet another dismal defeat, filled with shoddy fielding and poor pitching, general manager Omar Minaya strolled into the clubhouse to offer pats on the shoulder and encouraging smiles.
Moments later Monday night, Mets manager Willie Randolph put a similar message into words: "I'm not angry."
So there's the strategy, in the face of four consecutive losses and a franchise-record 10 errors over the latest two games -- grin and bear it.
In the thick of a pennant race, the NL East-leading Mets made four more errors, wasted a four-run lead built with Carlos Beltran's 30th homer, and had another bullpen implosion in a 12-4 loss to the Washington Nationals.
"It needs to turn around quickly or we're going home," catcher Paul Lo Duca said.
Said Randolph: "We're trying hard. Maybe too hard. We'll just regroup."
The Mets never had more than eight errors over two games until making six Sunday plus Monday's total, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Heck, even Casey Stengel's woeful '62 Mets never had a fielding fiasco of this magnitude.
"That's not how we play the game. Hopefully we'll get out of it -- the sooner the better," Minaya said. "Everybody's together, and we're going to gut it out together."
The Mets are only 2½ games ahead of second-place Philadelphia, which followed up a sweep at New York by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 13-11 Monday night. The Mets' three losses to the Phillies were quite similar to what happened Monday -- shaky bullpen work compounded by mental and physical miscues.
"They're human, too," said Nationals manager Manny Acta, New York's third base coach in 2005-06.
Two of Monday's errors came on consecutive plays during the sixth inning, when Washington managed to score four runs with the benefit of only one hit.
That came on the heels of a four-run fourth and a one-run fifth, and right before a three-run seventh for the Nationals, who have the lowest-scoring offense in the majors.
Nook Logan led Washington with three hits and three runs.
"Caused chaos out there," Acta said.
"All we're really playing for is to stay out of the cellar and eliminate some teams," Church said. "We're playing that spoiler role."
It all helped Jonathan Albaladejo (1-0) earn his first major league victory with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Albaladejo and four other relievers combined for five shutout innings after starter Tim Redding staked the Mets to a 4-0 lead.
"Against that lineup, that speaks volumes," Redding said of Washington's relief corps.
Ah, wouldn't the Mets love that sort of help from the bullpen.
After Brian Lawrence -- filling in for the injured starter Orlando Hernandez -- gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings, he was followed by this procession: Aaron Sele (four outs, three hits, one run), Scott Schoeneweis (two outs, one hit, three runs), Jorge Sosa (two outs, two walks, one run), Willie Collazo (one out, one hit, one run) and Joe Smith (five outs, two hits, two runs).
The totals: 4 2/3 innings, eight runs.
That follows a Phillies series in which New York's relievers allowed 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings.
Lawrence gave up four runs in the fourth inning, when six straight batters reached safely. Washington went up 5-4 in the fifth when Sele (3-2) gave up Pena's RBI single, but the big blunders came in the sixth.
Schoeneweis started things by walking the .233-hitting Schneider. Pinch-hitter Felipe Lopez hit a roller that went under third baseman David Wright's glove for an error. Logan followed with a bunt that Schoeneweis fumbled, then grabbed too late to get the batter at first. But Schoeneweis threw the ball anyway, launching it into right field for an error that allowed two runs to score. Logan was credited with a single and wound up at third.
An out later, Schoeneweis gave way to Sosa, who walked a batter. Pena then hit a broken-bat comebacker. Sosa gloved it, turned toward second but held the ball, then wheeled and threw home. Logan slid in before the tag to make it 8-4.
"It's been about as bad as it can get the last four days," said Shawn Green, whose first homer since Aug. 1 made it 4-0. "It's got to turn around tomorrow."
- Beltran's two-run homer in the first inning gave him a second consecutive season with at least 30 homers and put him over 100 RBI for the sixth time.
- The Mets have lost five of their last six.
- OF Moises Alou extended his hitting streak to 21 games.