Mets can make statement heading into break
Weekend series against Cubs presents opportunity to finish strong
NEW YORK -- Any manager will tell you that heading into the All Star break with momentum is important. Terry Collins will tell you that it's vital.
At 45-37, Collins' Mets are right in the thick of things. They trail only the Nationals in their division, David Wright is having a career year at the plate and R.A. Dickey is baseball's newest -- and arguably most unlikely -- superstar.
On July 2, one day before the Mets opened a six-game homestand against the Phillies and Cubs, the skipper looked at the schedule and knew his team needed wins. Second baseman Daniel Murphy even said the goal was to win all six.
After dropping a game to the Phillies on Wednesday, the Mets' goal -- at least according to Murphy -- may have gone out the window, but Thursday's come-from-behind ninth-inning win gave the team plenty of momentum heading into the series against Chicago.
"We thought it's important to come out of these two series positive and move into the break on a positive note," Collins said. "We've got to go in with a positive atmosphere, let these guys have some rest and come out of it ready to go."
A series win over the Cubs won't necessarily turn heads -- the North Siders are 20 games under .500. But with the National League East turned on its head, and a newly added postseason bid, 2012 has given the Mets more than ample opportunities to make a run at their first playoff appearance since 2006.
"We've got to use tonight's game as some energy, because we've got to finish these next three going into the break strong, so that we can come out flying," Collins said following Thursday's walk-off win.
The Mets faced the Cubs once already this season -- they lost two-of-three at Wrigley Field late last month. Travel played a role -- the Mets didn't arrive in Chicago until 5 a.m. following a Sunday night Subway Series game at Citi Field -- but Collins knew his team's series loss to the Yankees was deflating and said he almost expected a letdown against Chicago.
"It proves that you can't take any team lightly," Murphy said. "We went in there, and they just outplayed us for two games. It was nice to get a win on the way out of there [in the series finale], but we know Chicago can beat us, because they've already proven that."
In the eighth inning on Thursday, the rematch against the Cubs was looking like an opportunity to rebound from a series loss to Philadelphia. By the time it was over, it represented the start of what could be a strong finish to the first half of the season.
"That's kind of been our mantra from the beginning," Dickey said. "We're not going to give up, we're not going to lay down. That's a great mantra to have, especially if it consistently plays out over the course of the year."
That mantra has worked in 2012, for the most part. With the exception of their bullpen -- which holds the worst ERA in the Major Leagues -- the Mets have gotten consistent production from all parties.
And if the Mets can avoid a relapse and have a solid showing against Chicago, the self-labeled resilient club will be one of the more surprising midseason storylines talked about in Kansas City next week.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.