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Richard Justice

Far from letter-perfect, nonetheless another W for Mets

Collins' emerging squad shows plenty of grit in toppling Yanks a second straight night

Far from letter-perfect, nonetheless another W for Mets

NEW YORK -- OK, so it was ugly. Who cares? Let others sweat the style points. All that really matters is that the Mets won a game Tuesday night. Against the Yankees, no less. It was 12-7 if you're keeping score. Three months from now, that's all that will matter.

The Mets appeared to be in free fall over the weekend after losing eight of nine to drop three games below .500. They looked very much like a team on the edge. Through it all, manager Terry Collins consistently praised his guys for their resilience and fight. And that's what they've done since then.

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The Mets have won three in a row, including the first two games of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium. They've scored 26 runs the last three games, which is one less than they'd scored the previous eight games combined.

They're not a perfect team. They'll be the first to tell you that. Their bullpen has been a big problem. Their offense and starting pitching have both been problems at various times.

Still, the Mets are 19-19 in a National League East race that still hasn't taken shape. So every win is important, even those in which the starting pitcher -- in this case, Zack Wheeler -- can't get out of the fifth inning.

Not many teams can overcome 10 walks, but the Mets on Tuesday got home runs from Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy and 3 2/3 innings of one-run relief from Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In the end, a win is a win is a win.

Asked what he could take out of the three-hour, 58-minute adventure, Collins, who looked like a guy who'd lived and died with all 196 pitches his guys threw, spoke carefully.

"I don't know except we won," he said. "We walked 10 guys. How you can tell us we won is pretty amazing. We'll take it and try to get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow night."

The Mets may even look back and smile about the whole thing. Beating the Yankees is forever sweet. Besides that, the Mets may appreciate that they had to scratch and claw to get it. In doing so, they revealed plenty of toughness and resilience that they hope will be part of their personality this season.

Are the Mets a perfect baseball team? They definitely are not that. They are a team looking for a spark. They are a team looking for an identity. They are a team that needs to do everything better. As third baseman David Wright said, "We're going to need to clean some things up."

If you catch these Mets on just the right night, you'll be impressed. You'll see a team getting solid starting pitching from Dillon Gee or Jon Niese, a team with Murphy, Wright, Chris Young and Granderson in the middle of the lineup, a team with a chance.

Meanwhile, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson looks for answers. That's why 23-year-old right-hander Rafael Montero will make his big league debut on Wednesday night at Citi Field against the Yankees. That's why 26-year-old left-hander Jacob deGrom has been added to the bullpen.

Others could be on the way as Alderson sorts through his options. First, it's about finding a closer. It may eventually be 24-year-old right-hander Jeurys Familia, but probably not now, not when he has made just 33 big league appearances stretched over three seasons.

"We don't have a guy we can count on in the ninth inning," Alderson said. "That colors everything. That's something we have to address."

In what may have been a tryout of sorts, Collins summoned Familia in the ninth inning of a 12-6 game on Tuesday, and Familia promptly threw six straight pitches out of the strike zone and walked the first two hitters. He eventually got out of the inning and allowed just one run. But Familia didn't look like a guy quite ready to pitch the ninth inning in Philadelphia with the game on the line.

Still, if the Mets get the pitching upgraded -- and they appear to have interesting Minor League options -- and if Wright and Murphy continue to hit and if Granderson gets hot, the Mets may still show the world that all their Spring Training optimism wasn't fool's gold.

"It's been kind of a roller coaster so far," Wright said. "We got off to a pretty good start, then struggled pretty badly for about a week. We're playing a little bit better now. We're going to need to clean some things up if we're going to play good, consistent baseball. But it's nice to come here and feel good about yourselves offensively. Hopefully, that kind of translates and gives us some momentum going back home."

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.

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