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Coutinho: Can The Mets Contend For A Playoff Spot?

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New York Mets' Willie Harris, right, celebrates with teammate Daniel Murphy after scoring on a sacrifice fly by Ruben Tejada against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 2, 2011, at Citi Field in New York. (credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Mets’ Willie Harris, right, celebrates with teammate Daniel Murphy after scoring on a sacrifice fly by Ruben Tejada against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 2, 2011, at Citi Field in New York. (credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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By Rich Coutinho
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I woke up this morning and decided it was time to turn the page on all the Met trade talk, because quite frankly this team is exciting and competitive despite all the injuries and off the field nonsense. They also wake up this morning 4 games back in the loss column for a wild card spot which quite frankly surprised me since we have all been told that the Mets can not contend and must “back up the truck.”

The National League is not strong and that is why the Mets are in the thick of the Wild Card race in the second week of June. I would not rule out the notion that they will hang in there all summer. First of all, they have proven themselves to be a resilient team, especially on the road, where they own a 14-14 record. Overall, since their 5-13 start, the Mets are 24-18 which is certainly a larger sample of games than the 18 game stretch at the start of the year and more indicative of their talent level.

And lets take a look at that record more closely–they’ve won games versus Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Josh Johnson, Jair Jurrgens, and Tim Hudson–just to name a few. Those are some of the best arms in the National League and they have done it for the most part, missing key components of their offense whether it be Ike Davis, David Wright, or Angel Pagan.

They have also compiled that 24-18 record in their last 42 games without an ace in the rotation. What they have found is some quality in Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee–Niese’s  ERA sits at 3.75 while Gee possesses an impressive 3.33 ERA. There is no lockdown ace–that’s for sure–but these guys all battle and RA Dickey has seemingly found his elusive knuckler of late despite hobbling around with a gimpy ankle.

Offensively, this team has the league’s leading hitter with both Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran near the top of many league offensive categories. Runs have been scarce of late and Jason Bay’s lack of production is troubling, but this team has a lot of grinders–players who play hard and tough it out. Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Angel Pagan, and Ruben Tejada fit into that category and all four have made contributions.

What will decide the Mets fate will be their bullpen. K-Rod has been great converting all but one save chance this year, but the rub here will be Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen, if they hold up the Mets will win a lot of games. And lets not discount the possibility that Ike Davis and David Wright, once healthy, will bring more sizzle to the lineup. There is even an outside chance that Johan Santana will emerge as one point in the season and contribute as well.

The league is so watered down right now and the NL wild card winner could be an 86 win team because there is so much parity. I said in spring training that I thought the Mets were an 85 win team and I still think that. A 42 game stretch of 24-18 does illustrate that the Mets can play with The Braves, Marlins, Brewers, Reds, and the rest of NL wild card contestants.

We have all been bogged down with negativity and trade talk that we might be missing a pretty good story here as Terry Collins had held this team together in a way his predecessor could not. Wouldn’t it be ironic if after all this “trade talk” the Mets actually add a “small piece” at the deadline? It is not as far-fetched as you might think.

Well? Can the Mets make the playoffs?

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