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Slow and Easy

The Mets took two out of three from the Royals. Their unlikely wild-card march has them two games behind the Cubs for possession of the second N.L. spot — but they’ve drawn even with fellow contenders Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

That’s the upshot of a long weekend of baseball. Of course, that’s the straightforward solution to a complex equation that was full of Sturm and Drang. On Sunday the Mets got an early 3-0 lead thanks to a titanic homer from Michael Conforto [1], surrendered that lead with an inning of shaky pitching and iffy defense, then retook it in an indignant uprising in the seventh. But that uprising came with unlikely events, head-scratchers and worries a-plenty, just in case you’d forgotten that this is the Mets we’re talking about.

Here’s the seventh for the historical record, because this one was worth every twist and turn: Todd Frazier [2] doubled off the glove of Hunter Dozier [3], who’d proved annoying adept at catching everything to that point; Juan Lagares [4] gave the Royals a free out for no compelling reason … oh my goodness, what an odd way to misspell “sacrificed Frazier to third,” let me see if a WordPress plug-in is malfunctioning; J.D. Davis [5] and his sore calf pinch-singled home Frazier with the tying run; Tomas Nido [6] doubled, sending Davis gimpily to third; Ruben Tejada [7] replaced Davis as a pinch-runner, though not in our hearts; Amed Rosario [8] singled in Tejada and Nido; Joe Panik [9] singled Rosario to second; Pete Alonso [10] doubled in Rosario and sent Panik to third; Conforto singled in Panik and sent Alonso to third; Wilson Ramos [11] singled in Alonso and sent Conforto to third; Ramos was out trying to advance on a ball that eluded a catcher, though it was by an eyelash; Frazier was caught looking.

Whew! When all that dust had settled it was 9-4 Mets, but the forces of good had nine outs to get and no left fielder. And that’s how Rosario wound up in left and Jeurys Familia [12] was asked to put up a second scoreless inning. Familia did allow a run, but it was a point in the game where you’re more concerned with counting down outs, and the Mets would keep the Royals at bay behind another Rosario RBI double and Alonso’s 40th homer, a nice round number that leaves him one shy of the prime number that would tie the single-season club mark. (And with an outside chance of claiming the RBI record as well.) Meanwhile, Brad Brach [13] handled the eighth flawlessly, and Edwin Diaz [14] put up a 1-2-3 ninth. Rosario even caught a flyball in left, though his footwork and body language accomplishing this reminded me of a dog climbing a ladder — the impressive thing wasn’t how it was done but that it was done at all.

If you want to be a pessimist, you’ll wonder why in the world Mickey Callaway [15] didn’t remove Davis when he reached first; the Mets’ outfield depth has gone from tissue-thin to, well, to putting shortstops out there as defensive replacements. The Mets are already without Brandon Nimmo [16] and Dom Smith and Jeff McNeil [17]; they may well now have to go a week and a half without one of their most reliable bats.

If you’re an optimist, look how many audibles somehow worked to give the team a win [18]. And go ahead and read that Davis is still insisting he can play (hey, at the very least he can certainly hit) and note that Nimmo is finally playing rehab games. Now think about the Mets’ lineup and bench if they’re still in it next month and have Davis, McNeil, Nimmo and Smith back. Heck, while we’re dreaming, maybe there will be a Jed Lowrie [19] sighting.

I’m trying to walk a careful line between optimism and pessimism, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I veer sickeningly between them without warning. What I am trying to do is keep perspective, if only by averaging those moods out.

It’s normal fan behavior to go into the fetal position after dropping the first two in Atlanta and to swear a blue streak after dropping one to the Royals; it’s also neither wise nor healthy. A rule of thumb for me is to ask what making up one game per week on your competition would mean for the rest of the season, and then temper your reactions accordingly. If you’re three games out with a week to go, then yeah, commence living and dying based on the outcome of every half-inning. The Mets, though, are two games shy of getting to play a 163rd game, with six weeks of schedule to go. That means a race that will have some ebb and flow to it, in ways we can’t predict. Maybe the Mets will ebb their way back to irrelevance, revealing this happy August as a mirage; maybe they’ll flow their way to locking up a wild card and taking aim at the division, turning this month’s successes into a harbinger. Or maybe the outcome will be something in between.

We’ll know the answer sooner than seems imaginable at the moment. But for now, keep in mind that a team can make up two games in six weeks without everything going right. It can even do that with more than you’d like going wrong.