- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- The New York Mets are suddenly in the most fun division in baseball. The NL champions are in Philadelphia. Two of the most exciting rookies in a generation, the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and the Braves' Jason Heyward, are must-see attractions.
Meanwhile, the Marlins look as if they are going to hire Bobby Valentine, one of the most fascinating personalities in baseball, to be their manager.
Of all of the teams in the division, the Mets may not be the best, but they might be the most fun.
They may have what all good Mets teams have -- underdog, fun-to-watch DNA -- making it easy for its fans to root for. What they may not have is enough pitching, which makes it hard to win a division.
After holding onto first place by percentage points Thursday afternoon, the Mets had a chance to pull further out in front with Hisanori Takahashi on the mound. The Mets lefty didn't have it, and gave first place back to the Braves.
He allowed six runs in his four innings. It was too much for the Mets to overcome and subsequently went down, 6-5, missing out on beating Armando Galarraga and sweeping the Tigers.
Although R.A. Dickey was tremendous Wednesday, the rest of the rotation has not kept pace in its most recent turn. In the past five games, besides Dickey, every starter gave up at least four runs for a total of 21 in 29 2/3 innings. The Mets lost three of the five games.
A major league executive with knowledge of the Mariners' thinking believes Lee will be traded, but Seattle isn't prepared to do it just yet. As for Oswalt, the same source said the Astros likely will come to the realization that they'll need to take on some of his contract if they want to get a return on a trade. The Mets will be in talks with both teams, but there are no leaders at this point.
"I think everybody will be looking for pitching," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "There is never really enough pitching. I don't know any team that says, 'I think we have enough pitching.' "
Takahashi didn't have enough control of his pitches on Thursday -- especially his fastball. Really, he had nothing from the first batter he faced. He walked Austin Jackson to start the game -- the first of four free passes that night.
A stolen base and single later -- and before many fans were in their seat -- Takashi had put the Mets in a 1-0, first-inning hole.
After escaping trouble in the second -- he left runners on second and third -- Magglio Ordonez smacked a third-inning, two-run homer over the angular wall in left. By the time Takahashi was removed, Ryan Raburn had his second homer of his season and the Mets were in serious trouble.
What is making this team so interesting, and befitting of the entertaining NL East, is they seem to have some of the DNA of previous fun, winning Mets clubs. Ostensibly, they're never out of any games.
This was the case Thursday night.
Down 6-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, they scored four runs in the sixth and seventh and cut the Tigers' lead to one.
"That is what good teams do," Jose Reyes said. "They never quit."
To be a first-place team -- at least Thursday night -- they need to finish the job. After contributing a sixth-inning RBI, David Wright walked to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh. The Mets were down 6-5 and former Yankees reliever Phil Coke was on the mound. Wright entered the at-bat at a league-best .417 against lefties.
After falling behind 2-0, Coke overpowered Wright. Of the seven pitches he threw, six were fastballs. The last one came in at 95 mph, and Wright couldn't get his bat on it. Ike Davis would fly out to center next and the Mets would remain down a run.
In the eighth, the Mets threatened again -- with Henry Blanco and Ruben Tejada singling with two outs to set up Chris Carter. But "The Animal" -- who'd walked around the clubhouse before the first game of this series, saying, "We are going to declaw the Tigers" -- flew out to left.
With Tigers closer Jose Valverde on for the ninth, the Mets went down quietly in order. Wright struck out to end the game.
"This was a steep hill to climb," Wright said.
The exciting Mets, in the most fun division in baseball, were back in first for a few hours Thursday. But they're now looking up and no doubt wondering if they have the pitching to climb atop the NL East for good.
Do the Mets have enough pitching to stay atop the NL East? Time will tell.