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Palladino: 'Pluck' Is New York Mets' Middle Name

'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Through all the havoc the world has thrown at us the last week -- earthshaking news of Mark Sanchez reportedly dating Eva Longoria, of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing, and, oh, how can we go on? -- the Mets have continued to forge through.

Proving once again that they have a lot of pluck, even if the offense is inconsistent and their fielding is nothing to write home about, they got through Independence Day at 44-38, six games above .500 and in second place behind Washington despite an inability to beat the Yanks and losing 9-2 Wednesday to last-place Philadelphia.

While it would have been nice to beat Cliff Lee, especially a Lee that hadn't won in 13 previous starts this year, he still has to be regarded as a premier pitcher. And the Mets had, after all, beaten the Phillies 11-1 the night before.

Now that they've gotten Ruben Tejada back from his long respite on the DL, they could be poised to head into the All-Star break on a roll, bullpen willing.

It was actually the pen, long a problem and certainly a subject for trade deadline talk, that cost them yesterday's game. After Chris Young came out in the eighth, with the Phillies leading by a run, Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak, and Jeremy Hefner combined to allow three spots in both the eighth and ninth innings.

Can't win too many games like that.

Still, the Mets have produced some bright spots the last two days, not the least of which is the re-emergence of Tejada. He's 5-for-9 with an RBI out of the leadoff spot, certainly a plus for a team that makes it living running bases instead of belting free souvenirs to fans in the outfield grandstands.

Think about it. They scored 11 runs against Philly Tuesday night and hit just one homer. And David Wright's sixth-inning, three-run shot was simply window dressing as the Mets led 6-1 at that point.

Scott Hairston's fourth-inning solo shot Wednesday got the Mets on the board for a short-lived lead.

So, as has been pointed out often, power is not one of the Mets' fortes.

Still, they have won more than they've lost. No power. Bad bullpen. Clutch hitting and more-than-solid starting pitching.

It's called pluck.

The Mets are a plucky team.

Plus, things are lining up for at least one honorarium that will only help the Mets' mentality moving past the All-Star break. R.A. Dickey starts tomorrow, making him totally eligible for Tony La Russa if he chooses to start the 12-1 knuckleballer in the mid-summer classic.

And Johan Santana's Friday start against the Cubs assures him of a nice, six-day rest before the Mets resume action next Friday against the Braves. Then again, we all know what happened the last time Collins gave Santana's surgical shoulder an extended rest. That was right after his 134-pitch no-hitter June 1 against the Cardinals. The Yanks plastered him in the next start, seven days later, with seven earned runs in five innings.

And to think, Collins had contemplated skipping Santana for this start. Better to keep him as regular as possible.

Santana can take it. He's plucky, like the rest of a team that doesn't cotton to babying or self-pity of any kind.

No matter what happens from tonight until the All-Star period starts with Monday's Home Run Derby, it's still too early to determine if the Mets can make a definite impact on the NL East.

For now though, be content that they'll hit the break above .500 thanks to a lot of pluck.

And that's more than most expected out of them at this point.

What's the perfect word to describe Terry Collins' squad? Be heard in the comments below...

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