The question posed to Terry Collins was simultaneously simple and complex.

His team is undermanned, but one of the presumed key components has been in a season long hitting slump. So now the question was when or if Terry Collins determines that left fielder Jason Bay needs to sit.

The decision did not come in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Marlins.

“I don’t think after the (All-Star) break, the way Jason swung before the break and having a four-day week, he needs rest. He needs to play. He needs to play to get back to where he was before the break,” Collins said before last night’s makeup game in which Bay hit sixth in the lineup.

He was in the lineup because Carlos Beltran missed his third straight game with the flu. Bay went 0-for-2 with a walk and a ninth inning sac fly. He may have caught an inadvertent break when Scott Hairston, who hit cleanup against last night, fouled a ball off his shin during his only at-bat. He left the game and a Mets spokesperson reported that Hairston suffered a “left shin contusion” and is “day to day.”

But Bay may have also proved to his manager, and more importantly, himself, that he can still drive a ball. He crushed a Leo Nunez 95 MPH first pitch fastball to dead center with the bases loaded and one out that scored Daniel Murphy with the Mets’ only one. It was the second hard hit ball in as many days for Bay, who had hammered a Kyle Kendrick pitch five feet foul of the right field fair pole in Sunday’s 8-5 loss to the Phillies.

“Absolutely,” Bay said when asked if those at-bats were cathartic. “Sometimes you go awhile without doing it and you think, ‘Man, where is it?’ I know I can because I do it in batting practice. I know it’s there. It’s not something where I sit back and (say), ‘Man, maybe I just don’t have power anymore.’ I know I do. It’s just a matter of being consistent with it.”

Bay’s post-game briefing was diametrically opposite of the one following Sunday’s loss. He had gone 0-for-4 and misplayed fly ball along with repeatedly hearing the Citi Field crowd’s displeasure.

“It’s not the first time. Imagine how frustrated the fans are, do you think that I enjoy it? Do you think I’m enjoying what I’m doing out there?” Bay asked rhetorically when questioned about the fan response. “I’m more frustrated than anybody.”

Signed to four-year, $66 million contract in December 2009 to provide potent outfield bat to a team was coming off of a 70-92 season in which it collectively hit .270 but only 95 home runs, Bay has underwhelmed. He is only hitting .248 (82-for-600) with 12 homers and 76 RBI in 163 games spanning the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. In 68 games this year, he has a .232 batting average, 6 home runs and 29 RBI.

What has gnawed at Bay and the Mets in recent days is that he appeared to have battled through the slump prior to the seven game California road trip that ended their first half. In a 17 game span between June 16 and July 5, Bay hit .352 (24-for-68) with four homers, 16 RBI and 13 runs scored. But since the Mets’ 6-0 win at the Dodgers on July 6, he is in a 3-for-his-last-32 slump with a run scored and a RBI.

“Right now, the results aren’t great, aren’t there, but I don’t feel as lost as I was early on,” Bay said. “I feel like I’m having good at-bats. You don’t want to say it’s close all the time but I feel like I’m in a better place even though I’m not getting those hits.”

The Mets (47-48) recorded just three hits, their second worst output of the season. Clay Hensley (1-2) only allowed a first inning double to Willie Harris in earning his first as a starter since August 16, 2007. Chris Capuano (8-9) surrendered seven hits and four runs in 7 2/3 innings.

Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.

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