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New York State of Should

The Mets recorded 17 hits on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t know they had 17 players. They also won their fourth game in their last five [1]. At that rate…nah, I’m not gonna pin my hopes on .800 ball played across the final 91 games of the season working out to a win total of 103.

Though you’ll notice I did just go to the trouble of doing the math.

It was a fun day in Miami, a fun day to filet the Marlins (do those piscatological puns ever get old?). We were overdue for an 11-5 Fish fry (no, apparently, they don’t), the kind where the Mets score early, score often and score after ever-so-nearly allowing the Marlins to score a few too many themselves. First it was 7-0. Then it was 7-3 with the tying run at bat. Then it was no problem whatsoever, something you never hear yourself say deep in the heart of Loria.

When we look in the mirror, we see a team that we believe should be immune to the teal terror that lies beneath all that black & orange angst. On some level, we can live with overall sucking — and we sure have — but the part where we inevitably find a way to have our tying run thrown out in the bottom of the ninth versus the South Florida Pisces People goes against our core conception of self.

Remember Baseball Like It Oughta Be? Well, we oughta be taking three of four from the Marlins. And we just did. We oughta not be getting swept by anybody, and we cleared that minimal hurdle versus the Cardinals. Thus, we’ve reached at least a temporary State of Should. We’re gonna need to stock up on Should, however. Winning a little more than we lose at home is a Should must, though a two-game Citi Field series against best-team-in-baseball Oakland might not be the ideal proving ground. Sneaking up on so-so outfits like 37-38 Pittsburgh and 38-37 Atlanta is another Should must when we hit the road again. And when the next lengthy homestand commences…

Ah, the biggest Should is taking ’em one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. I’ve been preaching this, mostly to myself but occasionally to others, for the past 34 years, dating back to that five-game series against the Phillies I imagined the 7½-back Mets sweeping at Shea in August of 1980 as prelude to bigger and better things. Instead, as I am required by law to point out annually, the Mets were swept, their previously promising season was in ruins and I swore I’d never again get ahead of the schedule in my thinking. I still do sometimes drift forward a few games, but I try my darnedest to stay in the moment when I’m not vacationing in the 1980 of my selective memory.

(I’m also required by law to annually invoke Steve Henderson [2]’s home run that beat the Giants, the 47-39 record from May 13 to August 13 and how real The Magic Is Back felt, I swear it did.)

I doubt too many of us are hitting refresh at Mets.com/Playoffs because we’re a robust 4-1 in our last five, but I have an inkling of insight into how the Metsopotamian mindset operates. We just received routinely stellar starting through one full turn of the rotation. The bullpen has stopped looming like a final resting place for lost leads. Granderson is no longer a colossal misallocation of resources. Duda’s bursts of power almost make up for his unfamiliarity with the nuances of his sport. Wright is in full Davidocity at last. Murphy’s playfully tapping coaches’ faces. The rejuvenated D’Arnaud and the exalted Lagares are slotting back into the band imminently. EY isn’t without his assets. Even Tejada the Uninspiring doesn’t quite make one long for his eternally unproven replacement so much some days.

Hell, the endlessly depressing manager, whom I tend to consider the endlessly depressing personification of this most endlessly depressing era, got some genuine use out of his No. 8-hitting pitcher’s bat-handling skills and put the squeeze on at a juncture in Sunday’s game when it truly mattered. Niese bunted, Nieuwenhuis scored, nothing went seriously awry thereafter. It was a Mets kind of day at the end of a Mets kind of weekend, perhaps kindling the notion that a Mets kind of year could gather steam, given that they’re only five back in a slack division and…

You do remember that a reasonable facsimile of these very same Mets won 15 of 23 to end April, don’t you? They were so hot that True New Yorkers everywhere were asked to commit blood and treasure to their cause. Next thing you know, the Mets went out and captured 16 of their succeeding 45 contests, leaving what’s been an almost irrevocable deposit on the cozy basement apartment they are currently graciously sharing with the Phillies.

Now they’ve taken four of five. It could be a hint of brilliance to come. Or it could represent a few decent days from a team that hasn’t been above .500 since May 5. Almost every team finds a way to win four of five in the course of 162. What you gotta do if you’re 35-41 is find a way to vault over the break-even point, take up permanent residence above a couple of your divisional neighbors and get not just plausibly close to the top, but actually close.

Also, 17-hit outbursts notwithstanding, take ’em one game, one inning, one pitch at a time. Trust me — it works better that way.