Russell: Mets Still In It (Somehow)

The Mets survived what could have been a devastating road trip and enter a 10-game homestand with a 64-63 record. The Mets are 3.5 games behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot after taking two of three in St. Louis.

One reason the Mets are hanging around is the pitcher starting tonight against the Phillies, ageless wonder, Bartolo Colon.

“I can’t come up with a name of a guy who we could’ve had who’s done a better job than he has,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “The healthiest of the bunch and he’s won big games for us, a lot of big games for us. You talk about a guy in his spot and he eats up innings, this guy does more than eat up innings.”

Colon, who is 11-7 with a 3.36 ERA, was named to the All-Star team as the a veteran on a staff that features Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and, earlier in the year, Matt Harvey. He doesn’t light up a radar gun like the younger

The manager spoke of Colon’s ability to work deep into games, something that has been vital with a banged up pitching staff. “I tell you, without him I don’t know where we’d be right now.”

The Mets entered this season on the short-list of favorites to go to the World Series. It’s rare territory for the Mets, although general manager Sandy Alderson led Oakland to several pennants and knows the challenge of repeating.

“Well I think it’s always difficult to repeat just because chemistry and those kinds of intangibles can come into play,” Alderson said. “The way things are today with the wild card and so forth, one would think it’s a little easier to get back in the postseason at least. But it’s still very difficult. We’re proving that this season.”

The GM added that “It’s always difficult to repeat and I think it has a lot to do psychology as much as capability.”

Much has been made of injuries leading to on-the-field inconsistency, but there is also the clubhouse situation as the absences of David Wright and Harvey have shined a light on other players, including some first-year Mets like Neil Walker and James Loney.

“David’s presence is missed on the road,” Collins said. “Here’s a guy whose respect around the league, second to none. Players not only on our teams but other teams, he’s around, he gets their attention, and in the clubhouse, you know when David says something to you, you really pay attention. So him not being around, the fact that he is the captain of our team, I think we’ve really work hard to find that other leadership to step in. And in Matt’s case, when Matt Harvey’s going good, again, he’s an attention grabber. And what it does, it takes a little heat off the other guys around him because they’re the guys that everybody turns to.”

Despite all the issues the Mets have faced, they are still in the thick of things. A St. Louis sweep would’ve left the Mets 7.5 behind and not much to look forward to in the final 35 games.

Instead it’s only 3.5, and the Mets have one of the easiest September schedules in the league. And Bartolo Colon gets the start tonight.

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