NEW YORK -- One of the pillars-by-default of this injury-riddled Mets team, Lucas Duda has become a microcosm of the club. He is here, playing every day because of the trade to Carlos Beltran and the injuries to other would-be replacements. He is thriving. And he is learning.
On Tuesday, Duda learned to take a risk. With two men on base and the Mets down a run, Duda -- the team's cleanup hitter, even against a left-handed pitcher -- asked Mets manager Terry Collins if he could attempt to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
"If you can get it down," Collins said, "go for it."
So Duda went for it, and it worked. Two batters later, Nick Evans hit a game-tying sacrifice fly before Josh Spence walked Ruben Tejada to push across the winning run of the Mets' 5-4 victory over the Padres.
Moments after Tejada's at-bat, Jason Isringhausen nailed down the final three outs for his 299th career save. And with that, the Mets' second consecutive come-from-behind victory was complete.
"You can't say enough about the guys, the kids, and what they've been doing," Isringhausen said.
What they've been doing is sticking up their collective nose at adversity, winning in spite of the losses of Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and others. They do not have the type of talent to win with consistency -- what team would, under these circumstances? -- but they quite clearly possess enough resolve to win when they can.
The latest example came Tuesday, after the Padres opened a two-run lead over the Mets at Citi Field. Recently moved back to the leadoff spot to replace the injured Reyes, Angel Pagan sparked the climactic rally with a solo homer off reliever Chad Qualls.
"I tried to go slider down and in and he kind of scooped it," Qualls said.
Consecutive singles from Justin Turner and David Wright then brought up Duda, along with a pitching change from the Padres. Out went Qualls. And in came Spence, a tough left-hander who throws three times as many sliders as fastballs.
Humble by nature, Duda acknowledged his weakness -- "I'm not exactly smashing lefties this year," he said -- and then laid down the first sacrifice bunt of his career.
"He can do it all, I guess," Collins said. "I was pretty impressed."
After an intentional walk to Jason Bay, Evans -- another replacement player -- hit his sacrifice fly. Yet another walk loaded the bases, before Spence ran the count full on Tejada. And the final pitch of the at-bat, Tejada said, "was really, really bad."
"He just looked for something he could hit the other way and he drew a big base-on-balls," Collins said.
By that point, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion that the Mets would win their second consecutive game in dramatic fashion. One day after besting standout closer Heath Bell with a late rally, the Mets repeated the trick when Chris Capuano dug them into a hole.
As he has done so often this season, Capuano isolated the damage to one or two trouble spots, allowing two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings. Run-scoring hits from Orlando Hudson and Aaron Cunningham put the Padres ahead for the first time; then, after an initial Mets comeback, Jason Bartlett and Jesus Guzman launched the visitors back ahead in the fifth.
In between, the Mets rallied on an RBI double from Scott Hairston and a sacrifice fly from Ronny Paulino -- the only runs they would muster against Padres starter Wade LeBlanc.
That much hardly seemed to matter for a team that has quickly grown accustomed to late dramatics. After Pagan hit his leadoff homer in the eighth -- though the Mets were still down a run at the time -- Isringhausen began warming in the bullpen.
"Because I know what's going to happen," he said.
What the closer envisioned was precisely what transpired: the Mets' offense -- minus Reyes, Murphy, Davis and Beltran -- engineered the type of comeback more commonly associated with playoff-bound teams. They did it at least partially because they expected to do it.
"There's not a lot of negativity floating around," Capuano said. "And we've had some reasons to be negative."
Asked before the game to describe his team in a single word or phrase, Collins paused for several moments before launching into a several-paragraph narrative. Quite simply, there was too much to tell.
Sitting in the dugout hours later as the comeback unfolded, Collins turned to his bench coach, Ken Oberkfell, and gushed.
"This is incredible," he said. "These guys just fight back and fight back and fight back. I don't know what else to say except they're going to play until the game's over. They're going to play hard."