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Some hope for the new year for Mets after beating Braves

Mets' Dilson Herrera points to the sky as

Mets' Dilson Herrera points to the sky as he crosses home plate after hitting a two-run home run to score teammate Eric Campbell in the second inning. Credit: AP / David Goldman

ATLANTA - It's the Collins Doctrine. Look at the bright side. Do your job. Don't worry about numbers. Stop dwelling on disappointment; there's nothing you can do about it now.

From Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Braves, the Mets can draw spiritual strength.

Lefthander Jonathon Niese (9-11, 3.50 ERA) pitched seven shutout innings before being chased by three consecutive one-out singles in the eighth.

Second baseman Dilson Herrera, 20, all 5-10 and 150 pounds of him, walloped a two-run homer in the second inning for a quick 3-0 lead after Lucas Duda hit a sacrifice fly in the first for his 86th RBI.

"I like early runs," Niese said. "I don't want to say they help me relax, but it's a good feeling to know that one mistake won't cost me."

Curtis Granderson hit his 19th homer of the season in the eighth, picking up his 13th RBI this month. Eric Campbell, with a rare start in rightfield, made two slick running catches. Wilmer Flores extended his hitting streak to seven games.

Of course, the Mets could be upset that Herrera pulled up with a strained right thigh muscle after beating out an infield single in the sixth. Through a translator, he said he doesn't "think it was that big of a deal," but manager Terry Collins isn't sure Herrera will play again this season.

The Mets also could mope about how things got pretty dicey in the Atlanta eighth, when Josh Edgin -- called in to bail out Niese with the bases loaded and one out -- surrendered a two-run single to Freddie Freeman. Carlos Torres replaced Edgin and induced two groundouts to stanch the bleeding before Jenrry Mejia earned his 27th save in 30 chances.

But that's another point in Collins' credo: Don't expect anything to be easy. And, as this middling 75-80 season winds down, the Mets appear to have bought into Collins' ideology.

Maybe the Mets, after passing Miami Saturday night and pulling within 1½ games of Atlanta, still can finish second in the National League East. But that, Collins said, "is not discussed. The only things you talk about are good at-bats and quality innings. And I think all that stuff plays out."

Maybe Daniel Murphy can hit .300; he's at .298. "That's not something I'm seeking out," he said. "I want to get base hits to help us win."

Maybe Duda, with 28 home runs, can get to 30. "I mean, I don't really think about it, you know," he said. "I try to win. That's the main goal. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, you know . . . "

There really are bits of encouragement for the Mets to draw from the season's second half. They are 38-32 since July 4. Jacob deGrom has emerged as an elite starter and Zack Wheeler seems to have hit his stride. Duda is realizing his power potential. Travis d'Arnaud found his offense during a demotion to Las Vegas.

"We've just got to play the game," Collins keeps saying. "Go out, do the right thing. We'll finish up strong and have some fun on the way.

"We've got some young guys. If [players] pack it in, you won't see 'em again. That's why it's nice, this time of year, to bring these young guys up. They add a lot of energy to the team."

Things will get better, the Collins logic goes. Skip the regrets.

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