CINCINNATI -- For much of this season, Daniel Murphy has been the Mets' poster child of resilience. Making the team out of Spring Training as a bench player, Murphy began earning everyday playing time when Brad Emaus did not succeed as the team's starting second baseman. When Ike Davis went down due to injury, Murphy stepped in at first base and thrived. When David Wright landed on the disabled list, Murphy filled in at third and did the same.
He is just one example of resilience for the injury-plagued Mets, a cog in the wheel. And it is players such as Murphy that have Mets manager Terry Collins looking past this week's potential departure of Carlos Beltran. Just as Murphy doubled home two runs in Monday's 4-2 victory over the Reds, Collins knows, so too will someone else have a chance to step up if Beltran is traded.
"When we started the year, he was that role guy," Collins said of Murphy. "Due to the injuries, he's had a chance to play and get up there a lot, and he's had a very, very good year."
As much as Collins tries to avoid thoughts of the Mets trading Beltran prior to this Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, he admits to certain moments of weakness. Collins has considered how his outfield will look without Beltran -- likely with Lucas Duda in his place. Collins has rearranged his lineup in his mind.
Scouts, too, have played make-believe, following Beltran from New York to Miami and now to Cincinnati. They have envisioned their respective teams' lineups with Beltran in the middle.
For now, though, Beltran is a Met, with the team built largely around him. Wearing a Mets uniform Monday evening, Beltran hit a game-tying sacrifice fly in the seventh, following consecutive one-out hits from Jose Reyes and Justin Turner, and chased Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake. Wright later singled, allowing Murphy to face reliever Logan Ondrusek.
A double into the gap then gave the Mets their first lead, the only one they would ever need.
"To get in clutch situations, guys have got to be on [base]," Murphy said. "That inning started long before I got up there."
The game, however, did not end for some time. The Mets allowed a second Reds run on Drew Stubbs' single in the seventh, requiring Tim Byrdak to whiff Jay Bruce, who hit a walk-off home run off the reliever last season -- and prompting Byrdak to say afterward, with a grin, that he "remembered the at-bat."
The eighth proved somewhat easier for Bobby Parnell, who rebounded from Sunday's loss to retire three of the four batters he faced. But the ninth grew harrowing when Jason Isringhausen -- another player who has filled a critical void during a time of need -- loaded the bases on a hit, a walk and an error. Eventually, Isringhausen managed his 296th career save, benefiting in large part from R.A. Dickey's 6 2/3 strong innings performance to strike out Brandon Phillips.
"There's no excuses, but Dickey messed me up for the remainder of the game," said Phillips, who doubled home Cincinnati's first run off Dickey in the sixth. "I was so used to swinging at the high pitch."
Dickey, for his part, allowed a total of two runs, featuring a swing-and-miss knuckleball that resulted in seven strikeouts. His only regret was not throwing it more often.
On this night, he was one of few Mets with regrets, considering that another day passed with Beltran still on the team.
Once innumerable, the list of suitors for Beltran has since slimmed to five favorites: the Giants, Braves, Phillies, Rangers and Red Sox, all of them with varying degrees of resources and interest. Each day, Beltran answers questions regarding his preferences, his status, his state of mind.
Until he is traded, the Mets must play with this cloud over their heads and these scouts at their backs, knowing that every plotline runs through their right fielder. Beltran may be dealt as soon as Tuesday. He may not be traded until Sunday. But the Mets have come to realize that barring something completely unforeseen, Beltran will not be a Met at this time next week.
And so they are combating that inevitability the only way they know how.
Relying on Murphy, who has earned the bulk of his playing time due to injuries to others, and Isringhausen, who became the closer only after Francisco Rodriguez was traded, the Mets won their series opener against a playoff contender that entered the game with an identical 50-51 record. Cincinnati's only advantage has been playing in a division without the Phillies and Braves.
The Mets, for their part, care little for such irregularities, just as they dislike rumors and speculation.
Right now, they care about results.
"We have the type of team that's going to be in a lot of close games," Dickey said. "And that's OK. We just have to be on the winning end of them."