The New York Mets' latest slump - which includes five defeats to baseball's worst team - isn't being taken lightly, especially with the best team in the majors coming to town.
After demoting three players, the Mets look to avoid a seventh loss in eight games in Tuesday night's series opener with the St. Louis Cardinals.
New York (23-35) appeared to be getting on track at the end of May, running off a season-best five-game winning steak that included a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
The Mets have struggled since, dropping each meeting with Miami. The losses including a 2-1, 20-inning defeat Saturday and an 8-4 setback in 10 innings the following day.
Following Sunday's defeat, the club sent first baseman Ike Davis, who hit 32 homers last year but is batting .161 in 2013, along with outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Rob Carson to Triple-A Las Vegas.
''I do believe there's an honor to play here, there's a privilege to play here. It's not just, put the uniform on and be here,'' manager Terry Collins said. "This is when you reach down inside and you find out who belongs here and who doesn't, for me. There's some learning things that had to take place."
New York has lost 10 of 13 at home, which doesn't seem to bode well as the Cardinals (41-22) own a baseball-best 22-10 road mark and have outscored opponents 34-18 in winning three of four.
The Mets have won six of their last eight home meetings with St. Louis, though.
''These people pay to see us win,'' Collins said. ''Not just coming here to take a look at (Matt) Harvey."
The Mets hope to end their slump before Harvey takes the mound Thursday in the series finale.
St. Louis, meanwhile, is coming off an 11-4, 10-inning victory over Cincinnati on Sunday, capped by Matt Holliday's grand slam in the extra frame. The Cardinals overcame a pair of two-run deficits.
''We haven't had to come back much this year,'' said infielder Daniel Descalso, who was in the lineup to give Pete Kozma some rest. ''Most of these guys have been around when we've had to come back.''
St. Louis has been successful both at the plate and on the mound, leading the NL with a .276 average while ranking second with a 3.19 ERA. Rookie Michael Wacha will look to help improve the latter number Tuesday while rebounding from a poor outing.
The Cardinals' 2012 first-round draft pick, Wacha (0-0, 5.40 ERA) followed a stellar major league debut May 30 - one run and two hits in seven innings of St. Louis' 4-2 loss in seven innings - by giving up six runs and 10 hits in just 4 2-3 innings of the Cardinals' 7-6, 14-inning loss to Arizona last Tuesday.
"Hopefully, I learned from this and it won't happen again,'' Wacha said.
The Mets are last in the majors batting .226, and the offense will look to provide some support for Jeremy Hefner has he faces a Cardinals lineup hitting .336 over its last seven contests.
Hefner (1-5, 4.36) has been solid over his last three outings, going 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA. He allowed one run while striking out seven in seven innings before the bullpen allowed two runs in the ninth of a 3-2 loss at Washington last Tuesday.
The right-hander wasn't as sharp in his only start versus the Cardinals, giving up three runs and walking four in six innings of a 6-3 loss May 13.