Perseverance has been hallmark of Mets' 2016 season
Collins guides club to postseason appearance despite numerous injuries
By Richard Justice
The New York Mets are the most dangerous kind of postseason team. Sure, the regular season has been a crazy ride. At this point, that's irrelevant. Besides, is there anything these playoffs can throw at the Mets that they haven't already overcome?
That's what the Mets celebrated on Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 victory over the Phillies. They did more than simply clinch a berth in Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game at Citi Field. They left every team in every sport with a blueprint for handling tough times.
The Mets kept plugging replacements into their lineup, and pretty soon they started figuring out ways to win games. Rookies saved the starting rotation. Veterans transformed the bullpen.
And the offense ended up better and deeper than almost any in the game. Here's the really interesting part of this whole thing: The Mets have been baseball's best team for the past five weeks (27-12), and they are playing their best baseball at the most important time of the year.
The Mets' 3.40 staff ERA during this stretch run has been the best in the Majors. Offensively, they have averaged 5.4 runs per game over the past nearly quarter of the season. Only the Braves have scored more runs in this time frame.
So who knows how long this thing will last? There's the NL Wild Card Game to play against either San Francisco or St. Louis, and then possibly a Division Series matchup with the 102-win Chicago Cubs. Don't underestimate the Mets.
If you had been watching them in mid-August, you would not have seen this coming. At that point, it looked like the numerous injuries and poor performances had finally broken them.
Even an epic postgame rant by Mets manager Terry Collins after a 9-0 home loss to the D-backs on Aug. 11th failed to stop the bleeding.
And then eight days later, something more significant happened. Yoenis Cespedes returned from the disabled list. A day later, he hit two home runs in a 9-5 victory over the Giants.
The Mets could not have known it at the time, but their ride to the postseason had begun. They're still miles and miles from repeating last season's run to the World Series, but they are both very good and very confident.
Postseason games are a grind, and at times it's about getting five or six tough innings from a starter and then navigating through the final seven or eight outs. This is one of the strengths of the Mets.
• Collins seemed to be on the hot seat when the Mets were 60-62 on Aug. 19th. No news there. He has been there almost since the day he arrived in Queens in 2011.
The truth of the matter is simpler: There aren't many better managers, and Collins has proven it again in difficult circumstances.
Managers are tested mightily in a season like this one, when high expectations seem to be drowned in a sea of injuries and poor performances. But the Mets kept showing up and kept competing, and that kind of thing can almost always be traced back to the manager for setting the right tone.
They celebrated wildly on Saturday, letting go after a tough two-month grind. They'll have a couple of days to catch their collective breaths before preparing for the next step. They do not believe the magic ride is over.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.