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The Mets Can Gain Some Real Ground This Weekend

The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently in first place in the wild-card standings — the race for the second spot has three teams (Atlanta, Pittsburgh and the Mets) tied, with St. Louis just a half-game behind — but that is just about as deceiving as you can fathom: The Dodgers might be one of the worst teams in baseball this very second. The Mets really need to take advantage of that fact, right now.

The Mets beat the Dodgers late last night 3-2 behind a homer from David Wright and another nice pitching performance from Chris Young (whose arm  is presumably going to fall off any minute now; he pitched a total of four games in both 2010 and 2011, and last night was his fourth appearance this year). But it's tough to see how the Dodgers are gonna beat anybody right now. They've lost five in a row and nine of their last ten, almost entirely because of their offense. They're missing both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, their two best hitters (by a large margin), and their lineup last night featured James Loney (who has two homers) batting cleanup and Scott Van Slyke (Andy's son, who's batting .171) batting fifth.

To put it kindly, this is a wretched lineup, one that the Mets happen to be catching at the exact right time. The Mets get four games against these guys, and as plucky as the Mets have been, there's nothing plucky about this weekend: The Mets are a better team by a large margin, and they need to capitalize. If the Mets can pull off a sweep this weekend — and they've got their two best pitchers, R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, going tonight and tomorrow, with a rough Dillon Gee-Clayton Kershaw matchup Sunday night — they could be in first place in the wild-card. Then they've got a week of home games against the Phillies and the Cubs before the All-Star break.

What we're saying here is that the Mets have a unique opportunity to head into the break not only flying high, but having made some serious ground in the standings. (Considering they come out of the break with a week's worth of intra-division road games with the Braves and the Nationals, they'll need it.) There's still a thought among some that the Mets' fever will eventually have to break, and they'll end up sellers at the deadline. But if the Mets can roll this week, like they really should, that could end up impossible. The Mets' next week could ultimately decide what happens with this team at the end of July. It'll be a lot more fun if they're still hanging around. This weekend, and this next week, could make certain that they are.

Photo: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images