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10/08/06 1:43 AM ET

Mets have overcome much to get here

Team picks each other up in face of adversity to reach NLCS

LOS ANGELES -- In the afternoon, they were handed New York. At night, they took Los Angeles. The Mets' "Spray it with Champagne Tour" is off to a good start.

Convincing, too. They marched through the Dodgers like a victorious team through a few magnums of bubbly, completing a National League Division Series sweep with a 9-5 win Saturday.

The team. The time. The total domination.

The toast. That's what the Dodgers were. That's what the Mets did to each other soon afterwards.

"Teams still winning now are winning for a reason," Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, said on the periphery of the usual locker room bedlam. "We'll fight hard to make sure we win eight more games."

Winning and fighting are among these Mets' specialties. For all of their assembled talent, they had to overcome one obstacle after another to get to this point.

Mariano Duncan could doubtless relate. Now the Dodgers' first-base coach, he was the second baseman on the 1996 Yankees, a club that overcame its own share of hardships to win a World Series.

At some point during that season, Duncan inadvertently hatched the team's motto when he said, "We play today, we win today. Dat's it."

Cliff Floyd's words haven't yet inspired any T-shirts, but the Mets' left fielder summed up his club's tenacity in the face of ranks diminished by injury a couple of days ago by saying, "That's all we got. Can't do nothing else about it."

Some teams which feel touched by destiny run the race as a sprint. The Mets? High hurdles.

"We pick each other up all the time," said manager Willie Randolph -- for probably the 1,243rd time since his club's first devastating injury of the season, the grave April 28 hamstring strain suffered by rookie right-hander Brian Bannister.

There were a lot more to follow ... Victor Zambrano's elbow, Floyd's Achilles tendon and ankle, Tom Glavine's cold finger, Duaner Sanchez's taxi mishap, the calves of Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez.

Pedro and El Duque had Grade 2 tears.

Now here are the Mets making the Grade 2 of the playoffs.

The theme never varied, right down to the ultimate evening, thus far, of this odyssey.

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When Floyd hobbled out of this game in the third inning with a new strain of his Achilles tendon, it seemed entirely fitting -- although also painful. Naturally, Endy Chavez stepped into his left-field shoes, and the Mets didn't skip a beat.

In mid-game, the prognosis on Floyd was day-to-day. By the end of the game, he was upgraded to Saturday-to-Wednesday, because that is when the Mets will resume play in the NL Championship Series opener against either St. Louis or San Diego.

Floyd was concerned, saying that the tendon "yanked on me" as he rounded third base to score on Shawn Green's double in the third.

"It was higher than the bone spur itself, and I haven't had that the whole time I've been dealing with it," said Floyd, whose immediate reaction was, "I've played my last game of the season. I couldn't get back on the field, so I had to let Willie know."

Willie already knew ... that his club would persevere, that is. It hadn't shown him anything else all season.

"We said from Day 1 that it won't be about individuals, it'll be about the team," Minaya said. "That's how we play the game. Through injuries and everything else.

"And that's a credit to Willie. Me and Willie talked about it from the first day in Spring Training. That's why I hired him as the manager: He's always all about winning."

The Mets are ready to win. And they are ready for the consequences of winning. Case in point was Jose Reyes, about the only one able to keep his eyes on all the action in the saturated locker room. That was because the excitable shortstop was wearing swimming goggles.

"We knew we could come back to win this game. Coming back has been our theme the whole year. It wasn't even a concern."
-- Willie Randolph

Earlier, the stands had rocked with similar boisterousness. A few innings after the Mets appeared to have taken the crowd out of the game with a three-run first off Greg Maddux, Jeff Kent invited the fans back in.

Los Angeles had one magic moment: Kent's fifth-inning two-run drive into the left-field pavilion to tie the score at 4 and crank up the volume.

Soon enough, though, the Mets silenced the fans and the dramatics of their cheerleader. Tommy Lasorda stopped waving his arms, as New York third-base coach Manny Acta kept waving his to direct traffic home.

"We knew we could come back to win this game," Randolph said. "Coming back has been our theme the whole year. It wasn't even a concern.

"The feeling in the dugout was solid, strong. We knew we'd come back -- and the guys did, right away."

Wilpon stood bare-chested in the hallway leading away from the clubhouse. He was changing into something dry, and he shrugged his bare shoulders and said, "There might not be the Subway Series everyone thought it would be -- but we'll be there."

The ones missing, of course, will be the Yankees, eliminated from the postseason tournament earlier in the day by the Tigers.

So just when the Mets and all their fans thought their day couldn't get better ... it got a whole lot better.

You would have loved being a fly on the Mets' clubhouse wall the moment this postseason lost its pinstripes. All we know for certain is that no road grays were visible on the field while the top of the ninth progressed in Motown, and that they streamed out of the first-base dugout a few minutes after the last out.

There may have even been a few practice sprays of, well, coffee.

As the real stuff drenched the room and everyone in it, Minaya grinned and said, "The good thing about it is, starting next week and maybe for the next two weeks, there will be only National League ball talk in New York."

Was Minaya sorry to see the Yankees go into the October sunset?

"Not at all," he said with candor. "We've got to take care of our own business. They didn't win. We continue to play."

Almost as snappy as, "That's all we got. Can't do nothing else about it."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.