Collins: Mets can be contenders

NEW YORK -- Even with a four-game winning streak, the New York Mets are seven games under .500. Even with three straight wins against the team that began the week leading the National League East, the Mets are eight games out of first place.

There's no doubt they look much more presentable than they did. It's still extremely hard to make the case that they can be a contender.

Terry Collins made it.

"I know what our record is," the Mets manager said Thursday afternoon. "I know what it looks like, what the perception is, that we're not very good.

"I disagree with it."

Collins said that in conversations with his coaching staff, he brought up the Mets' upcoming schedule, which includes a stretch where the Mets will play 22 of 35 games within the NL East.

"We've got a lot of games left in our division," Collins said. "A lot."

The Mets began play Thursday in fourth place, just two games ahead of the last-place Philadelphia Phillies and with the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins ahead of them.

Because the Braves and Nationals have had up and down seasons, there's a perception that the division could be more open than many expected.

For that to include the Mets, though, they'll have to show that their recent success is something more than the type of hot streak every team experiences.

"All the things we've been saying for the last three months are true," Collins said. "We've been one hit away. Now we're hitting balls that we didn't hit a month ago."

Familia feels good: A day after Collins said he saw a "red flag" in reliever Jeurys Familia's need for extra time warming up, Familia said Thursday that he's fine.

"I'm ready today, ready to pitch," Familia said.

Colon bats eighth: Collins gets agitated when asked about batting the pitcher eighth, but it was a legitimate question Thursday when he did it for the first time on a day that Bartolo Colon was starting. Colon is particularly overmatched at the plate.

But Collins' explanation for batting Colon eighth on Thursday made sense. He wanted to play Eric Young Jr., who is 5-for-9 with four walks against Braves starter Aaron Harang, and he didn't want to mess with the top of his batting order, which has been working.

"If you're going to play E.Y., you've got to either lead him off or bat him ninth," Collins said.

So Young batted ninth, and that left Colon to bat eighth.

D'Arnaud bats fifth: Collins had Travis d'Arnaud batting fifth for the first time this season (he hit there three times last year), a tribute to the way d'Arnaud has looked since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas.

"If he keeps hitting, he'll be hitting third in another week," Collins joked.