How Are The Mets Only One Game Out Of First Place? No...Seriously -- How Are The Mets Only One Game Out Of First Place?

Trying to find a hook on the Mets this year is as hard as getting a straight answer about the team's finances. Right now, as they get ready to play at Miami tonight, they are 18-13, in third place, but just one game behind the first place Nationals and a half-game behind the Braves,. They are, incredibly, 4 ½ games ahead of the last place Phillies, whom they just swept in their home park for the first time since 2006.

You'd think Mets fans would be dizzy with excitement, but most of the ones I know seem to be more like dizzy with ... well, just plain dizzy. What is going on? Is this for real? Can it last?

Almost no one is talking about the games per se, they're asking "How are they doing it?" I have an answer for that: I don't know, and if anyone else does, I wish they'd tell me.

The Mets aren't leading in anything that is generally associated with a team nearly in first place. Here are the plain numbers: the Mets are 7th in the NL in runs scored and 14th in team ERA. I'm seeing on every website "The Mets are doing it with youth" and "The Mets are doing it with hustle." Okay, then why is this youthful, hustling team so mediocre at bat and so lousy on the mound? How does all this youth/hustle translate into wins?

Going into tonight's game, the Mets are 10-6 at home and 8-7 on the road. If those percentages hold up, they would be about normal for most good teams. But, for the season they have been outscored by 18 runs. You don't have to be Jonah Hill's character in Moneyball to know that that usually translates into something more like 13-18 than 18-13.

So far, there's only one number that sticks out for the Mets, and it's more of an unexplainable fact than an actual stat: they are, or at least very nearly, the best team in the NL and perhaps all of baseball from the 7th inning on. They lead the NL with 11 come-from-behind wins, one more than the equally improbable Atlanta Braves, who have 10, .

Second, in the NL, from the 7th inning on, the Mets have a batting average of .280, good for 2nd in the league. In the 9th inning, they are first at .290. What would account for this? I have no idea. Perhaps this young team simply has more guts and more spunk than anyone else in the league - or, as many sabermatricians have been telling us for years now, clutch hitting is simply a myth and, sooner or later, what a given player or a team hits in late, close games is what they'll hit over the course of the season.

Right now, all that can be said with certainty is that if the Amazins' continue at this pace, you can skip the first six innings of tonight's game and just tune in around, say, the 7th inning. If the pattern holds, you won't have missed a thing.

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