A look of defiance was fixed upon Jon Rauch’s face when reporters asked for an explanation for the game-deciding home run pitch he threw to Raul Ibanez in Saturday night’s loss.
Eventually, Rauch felt the need to take up the mantle for his employer, the New York Mets.
“We’re a damn good team,” Rauch said.
The line between self-belief and delusion is microscopic, but the Mets had every reason to feel confident despite losing the Subway Series finale to their in-city rivals, 6-5, at Citi Field Sunday night.
The heavily anticipated pitchers duel between R.A. Dickey and C.C. Sabathia fizzled as neither starter factored in the decision. Boone Logan threw 1 1/3 hitless innings to earn his second win. Miguel Batista (1-2) served up the game-winning home run to Robinson Cano in the eighth to take the loss.
Dickey was roughed up by the Yankees for five runs on five hits in six innings. Mark Teixeira's RBI sac fly in the third opened the scoring and ended Dickey's earned run scoreless streak ended at 44 2/3 innings. It is the second longest in franchise history, behind only Doc Gooden's 49 innings in 1985.
"I didn't have a great knuckleball," Dickey said. "I didn't give us a great chance to win."
Still, as the Mets awaken today in Chicago, their 39-34 record is good for second place in both the NL East and NL wild-card races.
The Mets trail the Nationals by 3.5 games in the division and are one game back of the Pirates in the wild card.
It is a spot few outside the organization thought the Mets would reside after 72 games, following a winter in which Jose Reyes signed with division rival Miami without so much as a contract offer.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a lousy season. The Mets’ starting rotation became one of the best in the majors, and young outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda have proven they can contribute consistently.
“We may have to bring a young guy in there but there’s nothing wrong with that,” Collins said before Saturday night’s 4-3 loss. “They bring energy to the club.
“Someone’s got to be Rookie of the Year. Why not one of our guys?” Collins said. “So I thought, going into spring training, if we could keep our lineup healthy, we would be fine.”
Now, the Mets are focusing on playoff chances.
“It’s as close as you can get to playoff baseball [in the regular season],” Chris Young said of the Subway Series’ supercharged atmosphere. “I think it’s a great experience for our club. I think it will serve us well. In the second half we’re going to be playing some big games.”
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.