By Eric Schmidt

Ask any fan of the New York Mets where they thought their team would be on June 21, and they would have said dead last.

Instead, the New York Mets are in second place in the NL East, three games behind the Washington Nationals, and six games over .500. Perhaps even more surprising than that is the fact that the divisional front-runners, the Phillies sit in last place and four games under .500.

The Mets, who struggled against their divisional rivals in 2011, are 16-11 against them this year, and 15-16 against the other teams in the National League.

What seems to be clicking this year that didn’t click last year for the same group of ballplayers?

Perhaps the most important thing the Mets are doing is that they are fighting back, having earned the win after trailing their opponent 16 times. About half of the 310 runs scored this season have come with two outs.

David Wright is in the midst of a career year, with a .358/.456/.571 line. The Mets are getting contributions from Lucas Duda, who leads the team in home runs (11) and RBI (42), and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who has quickly become a fan favorite despite starting the season in AAA Buffalo.

When talking about the New York Mets, what the offense is doing doesn’t come up first. No, the first name off the tongues of many Mets fans is R.A. Dickey, the 37-year-old knuckleballer who is dominating his opponents.

Dickey, coming off his second consecutive one-hitter, has tossed three complete games this year for the Mets, two of them being shutouts, the third was an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth. Dickey leads the National League in ERA (2.00) and WHIP (0.889). Dickey has recorded 103 strikeouts against 21 walks and is a favorite to start for the National League in the All Star Game.

Dickey almost makes you forget about Johan Santana, who recorded the first no-hitter in franchise history on June 1. Santana, in his first full season after shoulder surgery, is sitting comfortable with a 5-3 record and 3.00 ERA. The Dickey/Santana 1-2 punch may be the best in the National League East with the injury to the Phillies’ Roy Halladay.

Just about every sports media outlet picked the Mets to finish in last place, to still be about nine games under .500. The Mets have 16 games left before the All Star break and a 10-6 record would put them 10 games above .500. Welcome back to the playoff conversation.

Filed under: MLB

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