MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

Mets look Amazin' with comeback win

Mets look Amazin' with comeback win

The word, as Casey articulated it some 53 years ago, was amazin'. Stengel was the one who dropped the G and popularized the term. Early on, the New York Post changed the adjective to a proper noun and uppercased the A, a change made necessary by the routinely implausible ways the Mets lost, won and performed. Quite often, they have been the Amazin's -- of 1969, '73 and, of course, Game 6 in '86. Some days they are more the Amazin's than they are the Mets.

So it was Tuesday night in D.C., where the New York City entry in the National League rose from the dead to inflict a most demoralizing defeat on its closest pursuers in the NL East race. The first-place Amazin's scored six times in the seventh inning and once in the eighth to cripple the championship chances of the second-place Nationals. The score was 8-7, but the game felt like a runaway for the Mets. And a dirge for the Nats.

With their 77th victory, the Mets put another game between themselves and the once-favored home team. The margin separating the first- and second-place tenants now is six games, and because of how the Mets overcame a 7-1 deficit to beat the Nationals for the fifth time in five games over 38 days, magic-number calculations are now permitted. The Mets' is 19.

A 10-0 trouncing would have served the Nationals better, would have left them less exasperated and less fragile. It is one thing to lose a game identified as critical, and something else to give it away. The Nats did nothing less than collapse in the final three innings. Their bullpen walked six batters with two out in the seventh. That isn't easily done. The Mets did the smart thing. They allowed the Nationals to lose.

And not only did the Mets underscore their superiority by scoring the decisive run against the Nationals' closer, Jonathan Papelbon, they also denied the Nats the psychological uplift they would have experienced had they beaten Matt Harvey. By the time the Mets were celebrating Kirk Nieuwenhuis' home run off Papelbon in the eighth, any thought of Harvey's poor performance had lost traction.

Nieuwenhuis' go-ahead home run

The Nationals' season isn't kaput. New York baseball will recall how the Yankees left the Red Sox for dead with a four-game sweep in Fenway Park in September 1978 -- the Boston Massacre, it was called -- but that the Red Sox forced a one-game tiebreaker. But to make the results of their final three games -- at Citi Field on Oct. 1-3 -- anything other than academic, the Nats must produce an inordinate number of victories in their final 24 games and hope the Mets endure a collapse comparable to their el foldo of 2007.

Those Mets led the division by seven games with 17 to play and finished as also-rans.

The current Mets don't appear to be similarly flawed. Their 8-5 victory Monday afternoon in the first game of this three-game series was the game they never won in 2007. The victory Tuesday night was a game no team wins frequently.

Precedent for what the Mets accomplished Tuesday did exist, though. They trailed the Braves 7-1 after eight innings in Atlanta on July 17, 1973. They were a last-place team, 10 1/2 games from first place. Their implausible run to the division championship hadn't begun. But the Mets scored seven runs in the ninth and won, 8-7.

The two 8-7 victories are not particularly similar otherwise. But chances are each might have a place of prominence in Mets lore. Should these Amazin's win the 2015 NL East championship, Tuesday's game certainly will gain even greater significance. And it was in the afterglow of that 1973 game in Atlanta when Yogi Berra spoke the words that have come to champion all underdogs: "You're not out of it till you're out of it."

Someone ought to share that thought with the Nationals.

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.