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Mets clinch Wild Card berth

Against all odds, the New York Mets are a playoff team.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Terry Collins celebrates clinching a postseason berth with his club.
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

In spite of everything, the New York Mets will play at least one game of postseason baseball this October.

With Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets guaranteed themselves a spot in Wednesday night’s NL Wild Card game to be played against either the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals’ win over the Pittsburgh Pirates today was their 85th of the season. With just one more game of the 162 left to play, St. Louis will not be able to match the Mets’ tally of 87.

For the second straight year, champagne will flow in Flushing.

One other thing is certain based on today’s results (with the Giants still to play their 161st game against the Dodgers): Wednesday night’s Wild Card game will be played at Citi Field. Even if the Mets and Giants finish with the same record after Sunday’s regular season finale, the Mets hold the better head-to-head record, which functions as the tiebreaker.

Noah Syndergaard was originally scheduled to start Sunday’s series and season finale against the Phillies, but he will be replaced from the meaningless regular season game in order to start the winner-take-all Wild Card game.

Syndergaard and Saturday’s winning pitcher, Bartolo Colon, are the sole remnants of the Mets’ starting rotation that has seen Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and most recently Steven Matz all require season-ending surgeries. In their stead, unlikely heroes like Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, among others, have kept the Mets from falling out of contention.

The same can be said for a Mets offense that, with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker all missing huge portions of the season, has had to rely on the likes of T.J. Rivera, James Loney and a reincarnated Jose Reyes to produce runs.

Now the same cast of overachieving understudies will join superstars like Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, and MLB saves leader Jeurys Familia, along with often-doubted manager Terry Collins, in the Mets’ second trip to the postseason in as many years. This, though, will be the club’s first experience in the Wild Card “play-in” game, introduced to Major League Baseball in 2012.

As far as who the Mets will face in that game, they might not find out until Monday night. Both San Francisco and St. Louis can clinch the second wild card outright on Sunday, but if the Cardinals win their final game and the Giants split their final two, or both teams lose all of their remaining games, a 163rd game will be required to decide the Mets’ opponent. Both teams would presumably call on their aces to pitch the tiebreaker game, which would work in the Mets’ favor for the Wild Card game two nights later, as they would face a weaker pitcher.

The winner of Wednesday night’s game will go on to face the Chicago Cubs in a five-game NLDS series. A year ago, a much different looking Mets team swept the youthful Cubs thanks primarily to a superhuman performance by current Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Wednesday night will be a historic evening at Citi Field, with an atmosphere that’s sure to feel like a Game 7. Believe it or don’t, but the 2016 New York Mets are a playoff team.