TORONTO -- Mets manager Terry Collins bemoaned before Friday's game at Rogers Centre that his team, like most National League teams, was not built for American League play. Collins was not complaining; he was simply acknowledging that the Mets were not constructed to thrive in home run derbies.
Some three hours later, his Mets took the field and descended into exactly the type of game that they could not afford to play. Starting pitcher Jon Niese set a new career high by allowing four home runs, and tied an old one with eight runs allowed. The Mets could do next to nothing against Niese's counterpart, Ricky Romero. And the Blue Jays kept piling on runs in a 14-5 dismantling of the Mets.
"Oh man, it was just a rough one," Niese said. "It seemed like every pitch I threw that they hit, they just barreled it up."
Most of the trouble centered on Niese, who was sharp enough to whiff six in three innings, but otherwise wholly ineffective. After Niese walked the first batter of the game, allowed a single to Yunel Escobar and struck out the next two Jays, J.P. Arencibia smacked a three-run homer to left.
Yan Gomes, the only Brazilian-born player in Major League history, followed with a solo home run off Niese in the second. Arencibia added his own solo shot to lead off the third. And Rajai Davis capped Niese's no-good-very-bad-day later that inning with the first of his two homers, a two-run shot to left.
Niese's final pitching line was eight runs, eight hits and two walks in three innings, raising his ERA from 3.40 to 4.85.
"A guy with his kind of stuff, to have as many problems as he has shown lately in the early innings, I don't know why," Collins said. "There's way too much plate. They're just squaring him up way too easily."
It did not help that the Mets' best offensive threat, David Wright, was sick with a head cold that reduced his voice to a raspy, gravelly shell of itself -- even if the illness did not stop Wright from recording a bloop double in his first at-bat, peaking his Major League-leading batting average at .416. Wright flew out to the warning track in his second plate appearance and grounded back to Romero in the sixth, before Collins pulled him from the game in the face of a nine-run deficit. He finished the day batting .409.
Even with a healthy Wright, the Mets might not have been able to do much against Romero, who worked around leadoff walks in the second, third and fifth innings to hold the Mets to just one run. That came in the second, when Daniel Murphy walked, Scott Hairston pulled a double down the left-field line and Rob Johnson drove in Murphy with a groundout. But Romero escaped that jam, then induced key double plays in the third and fifth innings to keep the Mets at bay.
Hairston later homered off Luis Perez to make the final score a bit more respectable, though his three-run shot only drew the Mets back within nine.
A half inning later, Johnson moved to the mound, becoming the first Mets position player to pitch since Todd Zeile in 2004. Johnson, who retired the Blue Jays in order, throws off a bullpen mound on occasion and had requested to serve as the team's emergency pitcher.
Consider Friday's game a pitching emergency, considering the brevity of Niese's outing. Because their starter lasted only three innings, the Mets had to lean on Manny Acosta for more than six outs; the struggling reliever responded with a four-walk, five-run performance. That led to Ramon Ramirez's ineffective inning, which led to Robert Carson's big league debut in a 13-run game, which led to Johnson's cameo on the mound.
"Our bullpen, they've pitched very well a lot this year," Collins said. "And when you don't pitch [well] in a game like this, it gets ugly."
Afterward, Niese put all the blame on himself. Friday's loss marked his second three-inning start in his last four tries, after the left-hander began the year with four consecutive quality starts.
"I've had two rough ones," Niese said. "I wouldn't say I'm very inconsistent; I've just had two rough starts. Hopefully I keep those to a minimum."