Delete ATLANTA — Derek Lowe looked down as he heard boos while walking off the field in the third inning, and he spoke in unusually soft, pained tones following the game.
A long season is wearing on Lowe just when the Atlanta Braves most need his veteran leadership.
Lowe suffered his shortest start in two years as David Wright drove in five runs with two homers, leading the New York Mets to a 12-2 win over the Braves on Friday night.
The loss cut Atlanta's lead over St. Louis in the NL wild-card race to 3 ½ games.
Lowe knows he is needed because the Braves are missing Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson from their rotation.
"I've said my whole career hitters will tell you how your stuff is," Lowe said after giving up nine hits and six runs in only 2 1-3 innings. "It was just a lot of hits. It was just terrible. That's all you really can say."
The Mets, responding to criticism from manager Terry Collins, matched their season high with 20 hits and ended a six-game losing streak.
Lowe (9-15) lost his third straight start. The right-hander had his shortest outing since also lasting 2 1-3 innings on June 14, 2009, at Baltimore. His ERA rose to 4.94.
"This has been a long year," he said. "I mean, this is probably my worst year I've ever had. Right now you obviously feel discouraged and frustrated and all those things, but next time around you've got to find a way to figure it out because this is just bad pitching for too long."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he still has confidence in Lowe. Gonzalez has few options as his rotation already includes three rookies: Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado.
Hanson, who has a sore right shoulder, has a throwing session planned for Saturday. He could be sent to the Instructional League next week with the hope he'll return to the Braves before the end of the season.
Asked if there is time for Hanson, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7, to pitch in the playoffs, Gonzalez said "Possibly. It'll be close."
Jurrjens has a bone bruise on his right knee. Asked if Jurrjens has a chance to be ready for a division series, Gonzalez said "Probably not."
The Braves have 11 games remaining in the regular season.