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Resilient Mets put another nail in Nationals' coffin

WASHINGTON -- Even when the New York Mets trailed by six runs in the seventh inning, closer Jeurys Familia believed his services would be required.

“The way we’ve been playing this year, yes,” Familia said. “I said in my mind, ‘I’m going to pitch. I’m going to save this game. We’re going to win.’ That’s the way we’re playing right now.”

In a second half filled with Amazin’ comebacks, the Mets produced one Tuesday that may have cemented their first postseason berth since 2006. Highlighted by a three-run double by Yoenis Cespedes and six walks, the Mets posted six runs in the seventh inning to even the score. Kirk Nieuwenhuis then delivered a pinch-hit homer against Jonathan Papelbon an inning later, and the Mets stunned the Washington Nationals 8-7 to open a six-game division lead.

It marked the biggest comeback by the Mets from the seventh inning onward since 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I thought yesterday was pretty good,” Mets captain David Wright said, referring to the series-opening comeback win on Labor Day, during which he delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh en route to an 8-5 win. “This was amazing. You keep going back to the word ‘resiliency.’ This team never feels like they’re out of a game. When teams give us an opportunity and kind of leave the door open a little bit, it seems like we take advantage.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “I was fortunate to be on some real good teams in Pittsburgh that won, but I’m not sure I was involved in a bigger win than that game right there. To be in the position we were in, and to fight back against Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon and come out on top is a huge salute to the guys that dress in that room. I told you that there’s a sense of calmness and no sense of panic on the bench. And that’s exactly how they went about it tonight.”

Before the wild seventh-inning rally began in earnest, with the Mets trailing 7-1, Collins said he was plotting when to remove Daniel Murphy from the game, since he had only recently returned from a quadriceps strain. Collins also was considering pulling Wright.

Then, all of a sudden …

“The thought in my mind was, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Collins said about what became a six-run seventh. “I’m saying, ‘We’re going to tie this thing. You’ve got to be kidding.’”

The Mets improved to 9-6 against the Nationals this season. That normally might be considered modest. But considering just how one-sided this matchup had been in recent years, it is huge. Washington went 15-4 against the Mets last season and had essentially owned the Amazin’s in Queens in recent years.

“It’s huge for us, because No. 1, they’ve beat us up over the years,” Collins said. “We’ve had a tough time playing them. They are so talented. They’ve got so many weapons for you. To come in here and do what we did tonight, that’s a huge lift for us.”

Now the Mets send Jacob deGrom to the mound Wednesday against Stephen Strasburg, with a chance to open a seven-game lead and truly end this race (with apologies to the ghosts of 2007).

“I want everybody to understand, we’re really excited. We’re really, really fired up,” Collins said. “But when we leave here, we’ve still got work to do. We can’t just use all of the emotion and leave all of the adrenaline here. We’ve got to take it with us. We’ve got a big game tomorrow. We kind of like our situation with Jake going.”