Just a short strut across from the smiles of Rafael Nadal at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing are the permanent frowns of Jerry Manuel and oh so many of the Mets faithful.


As far as nightmares go, what transpired at Citi Field yesterday had to almost certainly haunt the Wilpon family. A sun-drenched matinee featured mostly empty upper deck sections along the first and third baselines and outfield. It was a reminder of a year that father and son would rather not remember and a harbinger of an inconsequential September to come.


The public has a long memory. And short pockets when they feel a product is substandard. Five months has established New York’s National League franchise as irrelevant in a city that demands just the opposite.


Following yesterday’s 5-1 win over the moribund Astros, the Mets are 65-65, 10 games back in the division and eight games back in the NL wild card with 32 games left. While players will tell the world with straight faces that there is time left to make a run, it’s painfully obvious that the only good ticket in Flushing this September will be to the U.S. Open.


“We can put together a good little streak here and get right back in it,” said pitcher Pat Misch, who is 0-3 since being called up earlier this month.