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Heating up, Mets see potential opening

Club hopes back-to-back strong series the start of another improbable run
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

MIAMI -- In each of the past two seasons, the Mets' improbable second-half runs began without fanfare. There was no signpost to tell the club it was navigating out of the abyss. No one knew for certain if it was happening at all.

Perhaps Thursday's 6-3 win at Marlins Park, New York's fifth in six games, was another false start. Or perhaps it was something more. The Mets won't know for months, despite their understanding that they must begin somewhere.

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MIAMI -- In each of the past two seasons, the Mets' improbable second-half runs began without fanfare. There was no signpost to tell the club it was navigating out of the abyss. No one knew for certain if it was happening at all.

Perhaps Thursday's 6-3 win at Marlins Park, New York's fifth in six games, was another false start. Or perhaps it was something more. The Mets won't know for months, despite their understanding that they must begin somewhere.

View Full Game Coverage

"I don't know if our chances or our fortune has changed too, too much from winning these games," outfielder Jay Bruce said. "We still have a lot of work to do. We still have to play great baseball to have any chance."

Video: NYM@MIA: Bruce bloops an RBI double to left field

Beginning that process last weekend in San Francisco, the Mets continued it with a series win in Miami. Bruce and T.J. Rivera led the way Thursday with a pair of RBI hits apiece, backing starting pitcher Seth Lugo and a stout Mets bullpen.

"It shows you they didn't get down," manager Terry Collins. "They didn't pack up and go home. They showed up every day and played hard."

With more than half the season yet to go, still trailing the Nationals by double digits in the NL East, the Mets won't brave a peek up the standings just yet. But they're also not blind to the realities of their division. Earlier Thursday, the Mets watched the Nationals bloat their NL-worst bullpen ERA to 4.98 in a loss to the Cubs. Afterward, the Nats learned that they also lost star shortstop Trea Turner to a fractured wrist.

Had the Mets mustered even .500 ball in their first 10 games against the Nationals this season, they would be within striking distance of their division rivals at this moment. As it is, another chance awaits them next week in Washington. If the Mets take advantage of it, their short-term outlook could change dramatically heading into the All-Star break.

"I think the best way to look at it is the past is the past," Rivera said. "We know we're in a tough situation. But if we press to make up for all the losses in the past, then we're not going to have success."

Video: NYM@MIA: T.J. Rivera lines an RBI single to left

The climb is steep. The 12-game deficit the Mets fell into last week was far greater than anything they faced the past two seasons. And unlike in those years, when general manager Sandy Alderson acquired Yoenis Cespedes and Bruce at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, team insiders acknowledge the Mets are unlikely to add significantly to their roster next month.

To the contrary, Alderson said last Friday that he plans to consider selling the Mets' pending free agents -- a group that includes Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed and others. That might set the Mets up better for the future, but would cripple their ability to compete down the stretch this year.

Of course, Alderson spoke those words before the Mets swept the Giants in three games over the weekend, then took two of three from the Marlins in Miami. The club returns home Friday for three more games against the last-place Phillies, followed by Fourth of July festivities in Washington.

The ultimate importance of that series is up to the Mets. Right now, an opportunity stands before them. Perhaps this season isn't over just yet.

"We're hoping our pitching's starting to fall into place right now," Collins said. "And if it does, we've got an exciting second half ahead of us."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

New York Mets