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It feels like 1969 (or 1973) all over again

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No one thought the Mets would make the playoffs this year. Admittedly, I had them pegged for 2nd and at least in the hunt for a wild card.

Then again, one could imagine the pundits felt the same way in 1969, when the Mets won their first World Series, and in 1973, when the Mets won the East with a late stretch run, and fended off Cincinnati before losing a 7-game World Series to Oakland.

But as the Mets head home following an 8-2 road trip that saw them win the last 7 in a row in sweeping away Washington & Atlanta, one wonders if that same mojo has returned.

Granted, the bullpens in Washington & Atlanta are not what they're supposed to be, and that managers Matt Williams & Fredi Gonzalez have made some questionable decisions to put their teams in dire straits, and the Mets, not the Miami Marlins, whom some pundits pegged for 2nd, ahead of New York, have taken advantage.

Take for example today's game vs. Atlanta. Losing confidence in rookie Arodys Vizcaino after the Mets torched him in non-save appearances the last two nights, Gonzalez went to Australian sidewinder Peter Moylan in the 9th. Two outs. No one on. Juan Lagares hits a double that could've easily been a F8 in your scorebook had Cameron Maybin, who came in for defense after pinch-running an inning earlier, made the catch. Gonzalez, doing his best impersonation of Williams in last year's NLDS vs. San Francisco, lifts Moylan for rookie Ryan Kelly.

Worst. Idea. Of. The. Game.

Kelly walked Curtis Granderson. The next batter, Daniel Murphy, took Kelly out for his 11th home run of the season to tie the game at 7-7. The Mets then scored three runs off Edwin Jackson in the 10th to complete the sweep. With 19 games left, Atlanta's already dead & buried. Gonzalez, with his bonehead call in the 9th, may be joining an already crowded coffin.

I can't see Atlanta keeping Gonzalez around after this season any more than Washington keeps Williams. Miami & Philadelphia already replaced their managers once this season, and may have to do so a 2nd time in the off-season. Mets skipper Terry Collins was thought to be on the hot seat as recently as June, but not anymore. Barring a collapse in those last 19 games, 13 of which are against their division, the Mets will win their first division title in 9 years, and have clinched their first winning season in 7. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of their last World Series title.

If that sounds familiar, well, there's Kansas City, which made their first post-season appearance since 1985 last year, and have locked up back-to-back berths since the glory days of the 70's. The Royals might actually have an easier road back to the Series than the Mets, who likely would play the Dodgers before considering Kryptonite Kounty, aka the NL Central, in the NLCS. The Mets are 9-20 vs. the NL Central this season, including 0-13 vs. Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Mets announcers Keith Hernandez & Ron Darling certainly can relate. They went through two near-misses in 1984-5 before they won it all in '86. It wouldn't surprise them if the Mets run out of miracles and power in October, and it wouldn't surprise the fan base either. Gary Cohen and radio announcer Howie Rose grew up as Mets fans and lived & died with the Orange & Blue since their youth. They, too, can relate. Been there, done that, seen that.

All this says is, the Mets, barring a free fall in the next three weeks, will have extended their season with a couple more obstacles to leap over, the biggest being the division they haven't conquered. All today's game proved is that maybe, just maybe, destiny is smiling on them one more time.


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