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Rather Be Us Than Them

For the second night in a row, the Mets lost a one-run game [1] amid a relapse of Narcoleptic Offense Syndrome. On Saturday night the problem was compounded by Noah Syndergaard [2] having an off-night; on Sunday Bartolo Colon [3] was good enough to win, but the Mets’ attack against hyperactive Chris Archer [4] (who must cover at least two miles a game scurrying around the rubber) consisted of a whole bunch of watching balls and a single swing by Daniel Murphy [5].

That was worrisome, and not just because I’d gotten used to enjoying winning baseball in a state of gentlemanly repose. But you know what? I’d still rather be us than the Nationals.

“I’d rather be us than them” is a mantra I use when things are threatening to get out of hand in the ninth and the closer’s hyperventilating. (For instance, that final game in Miami.) Sure, it’s runners on first and second and none out and the lead’s a lone run, but hey, the lead is still ours. The other guys still have to do something positive to draw even, so exhale, willya? It’s one of those things I tell myself that’s half superstition and half a reminder of how baseball works.

Sometimes it even makes me feel better.

I’m using it in a larger sense now, in sizing up the Mets and their pursuers, Bryce Harper [6] & Co. (Not that the aforementioned gentleman gives a crap about what we’re doing, you understand.)

Why would I rather be us than them?

First, to state the obvious, we’re 1 1/2 games up.

Second, the Mets are going home while the Nats are about to hit the west coast, facing a buzzsaw of good pitchers in L.A. and San Francisco before swinging back through Colorado, which always seems to be a kick-us-when-we’re-down town for East Coast teams whose minds are on home. After that their schedule’s a lot softer, it’s true, but I keep eyeing that makeup game awaiting them in the final days when they’ll really want a breather. Plus they play six with us, which is no longer quite the source of optimism it once seemed to be. You never make assumptions based on opponents and road trips — the 2015 Mets have certainly taught me that — but the Mets’ schedule looks less daunting. (Though that Yankees series smack in the middle of September is an evil scheduling quirk.)

Third, the Mets could soon get some more reinforcements and a spiritual lift. David Wright [7] is going to play a minor-league game tomorrow, and thinks he’ll need 20-odd at-bats to get ready, which is about a week’s worth. Granted, we have no idea if all or any of that go well, or what kind of player Wright will be when he returns. (That’s been a question since 2009, if we’re being honest about it.) But potentially it’s another big bat as well as the return of a clubhouse leader. Throw in the expected returns of Erik Goeddel [8] to help a pen going through some issues and Steven Matz [9] to provide another starting weapon and there’s reason for hope. Hell, even Michael Cuddyer [10] may look a whole lot better once he’s in the complementary role envisioned for him.

Fourth, while this isn’t exactly science, the Nats don’t look right — and it’s not just Jayson Werth [11]‘s usual ate-the-whole-lemon-tree demeanor that makes me say that. They look tight and tentative and demoralized, losing leads they ought to keep and watching comebacks wind up short. They have time to fix that, but every day they don’t is a day less in which to do it.

Fifth and finally, the Mets are playing with house money. They’re not the team everybody picked back in February to be last standing in October, but the one we all wrote off as fatally wounded by injuries/bad luck/financial constraints/being the Mets. Every time the Nats lose, it’s accompanied by muttering and questions about why they aren’t what people thought they would be. Every time the Mets win, it’s a pinch-me, do-you-believe-this moment — even now that the pursuer has become the pursued. The pressure’s on Bryce and his Not-So-Merry Band, not Murph’s Irregulars.

I don’t know how all this will end up — no one does. But I do know I’d rather be us than them.