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For the first time since 2008, Mets playing with playoffs on the line

The last time that the Mets were within five games of the N.L. East lead after the All-Star Break was on the final day of the 2008 season.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a myriad of injuries, an anemic offense and a limited payroll, the Mets remain just two games behind the Nationals for the National League East lead. When these two teams begin a three-game series tonight, there will be legitimate playoff implications hanging in the balance. Yes, actual playoff implications. For the Mets.

This is the first time that the club has been able to use this phrase after the All-Star break since 2008. The last time that the Mets were within five games of a division lead after the All-Star break was on September 28 that year. That was the day the Mets lost 4-2 to the Florida Marlins in Shea Stadium's final game.

If this feels like it was a baseball eternity ago, that's because it was. At that time, the Mets had the highest payroll in the National League, Jacob deGrom was the starting shortstop for Stetson University Hatters, and Bryce Harper was just 15 years old. The only Mets on the active roster today who played in that game are Bobby Parnell and Daniel Murphy, who were both late-season call-ups.

Since then, the Mets have not recorded a winning season, nor have they even had many significant games after the All-Star break. Sure, there were times where they were about six games back of the Wild Card and Mets fans tried to rally around the team in the traditional "Ya Gotta Believe" spirit. But that was more of false hope than anything. They were never truly engaged in a playoff race. Tonight, they have a chance to move within a game of a playoff spot.

This series could eventually decide the winner of the division. The Nationals and the Mets are currently the only two teams in the division with winning records, so this has the makings of a two-horse race for the division crown. Even if the Mets do not make the playoffs, significant games late in the season would be quite refreshing for the long-suffering fan base. And seeing Citi Field at capacity late in the season would be a nice sight, as well.