Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

Pitch the tent, butter the popcorn and send in the clowns. The circus is coming to Citi Field.

And not just any circus, but "a rather large, very large, circus," as Terry Collins put it before the Mets' game against the Marlins on Wednesday night.

Normally managers view that as a distinct negative. Not this time.

The series against the Yankees that begins Friday is just what Collins and his players need -- not to mention the fans who follow the team.

The problem with (presumably, seemingly, tentatively) burying the Nationals in the NL East so early in September is that more than two weeks' worth of games remain to play before the postseason begins.

That is plenty of time for minds to wander and bodies to relax -- not what anyone wants at this stage.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

What better way to combat that than with a visit from the team from the Bronx?

The challenge was evident against the Marlins, who ended the Mets' eight-game winning streak, 9-3, on Tuesday, then won again, 6-0, Wednesday night.

They were facing a makeshift, righties-only Mets lineup that managed only three hits before a thin, understandably bored crowd of 25,161.

On one hand, Collins insisted before the game the Mets are determined not to lose focus.

"It's human nature to have people look ahead," he said. "That's what your [reporters] job is. That's what everybody in this [interview] room does; they look at the big picture. . . . But we are only concerned about right now winning the next, we've got what, 17 left? Winning 16 of them. Figuring out how we can do that."

@Newsday

On the other hand, he acknowledged the Yankees' arrival will make his task far easier. He recalled a meeting very early in spring training when the topic turned to a Subway Series so late in the schedule.

"One of the things that was said was, geez, we hope that thing's not going to be both teams fighting for something, and sure enough, it is," Collins said.

"I think the energy in the ballpark will be fun to experience because it's what you play at this level about and for. I think it's going to be beneficial for some of our young players to understand the focus and the concentration you've got to have to play under those circumstances, which if we do get to postseason they're going to face it again."

"I'm trying to look at the positive side, even though at times it can be a rather large, very large, circus . . . When you are playing the Yankees it's going to be big in this town."

Unlike the Mets, the Yankees have no concern over losing focus, given that they still are battling for a division title or a wild-card berth. The Mets' only incentive is to secure the home-field edge for an NLDS against the Dodgers.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Yankees series should be an eye-opener for Steven Matz, who will pitch the opener.

"I've read a lot of stories about him being a guy that has a chance to be on the postseason roster," Collins said. "He might as well get a taste of what it's going to feel like."

When Wednesday night's dreary loss was over, Collins acknowledged his team's intensity dip.

"We had such an emotional high going coming out of Atlanta, I think you're seeing just a little bit of a drainage of the system," he said. "It's going to be pretty exciting starting Friday, and we need to pick up the energy level up."

So, again, it's a good thing the Yankees coming to Queens? "I think so, yes," Collins said. "A lot."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

David Wright noted the oddity of a Subway Series on the cusp of autumn, and the added "entertainment value" it will bring.

"As players you try to treat it like another game," he said. "It's difficult to do that because of the energy the fans bring."

This time, that is exactly what the Mets should embrace to help carry them to the finish line.