NEW YORK -- Even David Wright admits that, given their current standing and injury woes, a playoff berth for the Mets is improbable. Two more significant blows came Monday, in the form of disabled list stints for Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy. Overcoming those obstacles, even for this resilient bunch, seems farfetched.
But a glance at the team late Monday evening revealed that, if nothing else, the Mets are still alive. They still have a pulse. And that sure beats the alternative.
"We've got to do what we've been all summer," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And that's take the blows and move on."
Hours after absorbing their latest dose of injury news, the Mets did precisely that in a 9-8, walk-off victory over the Padres. One inning after the Mets plunged into a late four-run deficit, Lucas Duda sunk All-Star closer Heath Bell with a two-run single up the middle, capping an uncommonly spirited game at Citi Field.
"It's a lot more fun to win," Wright said. "It's a nice vibe around here."
It was the polar opposite of the vibe on Sunday afternoon, when the Mets lost Reyes and Murphy to injury and dropped a critical game to the Braves, who now hold a 4 1/2-game lead over Arizona and St. Louis in the National League Wild Card race. Slightly more than one day later, after coughing up a lead in the middle innings and spotting the Padres four late runs, the Mets halved Monday's deficit in the eighth inning on an RBI double from Mike Baxter -- a Queens native called up before the game to replace Murphy on the roster -- and a sacrifice fly from Ronny Paulino.
Jason Pridie and Justin Turner then greeted Bell with singles to open the ninth, before the next batter, Wright, singled home a run to draw the Mets within one.
That brought up Duda, who promptly grounded his game-winner back up the middle.
"I made two bad pitches and it cost the Padres a game," Bell said of the hits by Wright and Duda. "I feel bad. These guys were grinding the whole game, and they worked hard to come back. I blew it right there."
Moments later, Duda's teammates mobbed him at home plate. A whipped cream pie found his face. And even Duda -- by far the quietest, most outwardly humble Met -- seemed to enjoy it.
"He's come out of his shell a little bit," fellow outfielder Jason Bay said, laughing. "The turtle pokes his head out and kind of ducks back in again, but he has opened up. He seems to be more comfortable."
Hits will do that. Bay, too, seemed comfortable after going yard in the second inning, becoming just the third Canadian-born player in Major League history to record 200 homers. His hit was part of an early barrage against Padres starter Tim Stauffer, in which the Mets also scored on a leadoff homer from Angel Pagan and a two-run third-inning shot from Wright.
But the Padres, who took a quick lead off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey in the first, stormed back during a three-run rally in the sixth. Jesus Guzman, Orlando Hudson and Kyle Blanks all drove in runs, spoiling Pelfrey's night.
Still, a greater source of frustration for the Mets did not come until the eighth, when Jason Bartlett gave the Padres a lead with his three-run double off Ryota Igarashi. Pedro Beato laid the kindling for that rally, walking Hudson and plunking Blanks to open the inning.
But it turned out to be nothing more than the opening act. The Mets, as their manager noted, took the blows and moved on.
"It was a fun win," Duda said. "It was nice to have everybody involved. That's the team that we're going to have to be, since Jose and Murphy are gone."
For better and for worse, this is the team the Mets have been all season. Playing at times without Bay, Wright, Reyes and Ike Davis, and now proceeding without Murphy and the traded Carlos Beltran, the Mets have managed to cope thanks to fill-ins such as Duda, Turner and Baxter. Since the dawn of July, they have lost more than they have won -- and that trend almost certainly will not change dramatically enough for them make the playoffs.
The Mets know that. And yet they continue to do more than simply go through the motions.
"We're not conceding anything," Wright said. "There are a lot of games left, and crazier things have happened."
Quite a few crazy things happened to make their series-opening victory possible. Quite a few more crazy things are sure to happen before the end of this season. Such is the nature of this team, prompting Collins to admit late Monday night that he is "exhausted."
He said it with a smile.
"This typifies exactly what this team is about," Collins said. "And that's why they're great to be around."