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New York Mets Embark on a Crucial Stretch

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COMMENTARY | Things got a little brighter for the New York Mets over the past four days.

After snapping their six-game losing streak last Thursday in the series finale against Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets won two out of three games against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field over the weekend. It was the first time in a month that the Mets won a series.

It also came at a crucial time. Last week, the season seemed to be slipping away. Now, after winning three out of their last four, there is at least a little bit of hope as the Mets' record stands at 17-24 with a quarter of the season in the books.

But, this being Major League Baseball and these being the Mets, you know it won't be an easy road. In fact, the Mets start a very difficult 10-game stretch tonight at Citi Field. They'll play three against the second-place Cincinnati Reds (26-18), three against the first-place Atlanta Braves (25-18), then four against the first-place New York Yankees (27-16). The first eight of those games will be at home, with the final two played at Yankee Stadium.

Those three teams, all playoff contenders, have a combined record of 78-52. They're three of the top teams in baseball, and each club is far more talented than the Mets. How the Mets do against them over the next week and a half will go a long way in determining what type of season this becomes. Can the Mets take a handful of these games and, at least on paper, remain in contention? Or will they fall apart against the elite teams and instead just be grateful that the Miami Marlins are in the National League East, preventing the Mets from falling into the division's cellar.

Sunday's game at Wrigley Field provided a glimmer of hope. After the Cubs took a 2-0 lead on a two-run home run by pitcher Travis Wood in the fifth inning, the Mets responded with a run in the sixth on an RBI single by David Wright. Down 3-1 in the seventh, Juan Lagares hit his first major league home run, a two-run shot. Daniel Murphy hit one an inning later when the score was tied 3-3. Greg Burke, Scott Rice, and Bobby Parnell pitched four scoreless innings in relief and the Mets beat the Cubs 4-3.

Back in New York, the Mets will play 10 games in 11 days, a crucial stretch for a team trying to hang on.

Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

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