MIAMI - Matt Harvey could have taken the bait.
The Mets' ace could have engaged the Nationals, whose blunt words in recent days have only revealed their displeasure at losing command of the NL East. He could have used his words to stoke a rivalry.
Instead, after Wednesday night's 8-6 win over the Marlins, Harvey mirrored what has been a team-wide phenomenon. He showed cool in the face of a pennant race that has heated up.
"We're just keeping our head down and staying focused here in our clubhouse,'' said Harvey, who tossed seven scoreless innings. "If we go out and put up runs, and keep pitching the way that we are, we're going to be just fine.''
Of course, the Mets have been more than fine. They enter Thursday's off day as winners of six in a row. And for the first time since passing the Nationals, the Mets gained ground. They lead the division by two games over the Nats, who lost to the Diamondbacks.
"Every game right now is important to the team,'' said Juan Uribe, whose mammoth three-run homer helped the Mets build a cushion they would need. "With the Nationals, the division is too close.''
The Mets began the ninth leading 8-0. But Eric O'Flaherty allowed four runs in his first game since being traded, and Hansel Robles gave up two. Closer Jeurys Familia ended it by getting a groundout by Christian Yelich, who batted as the go-ahead run.
Still, the Mets survived. And outside of one bad ninth inning, they dominated the Marlins, recording their first three-game sweep on the road this season.
Manager Terry Collins worried about a potential letdown, with the Mets coming off a memorable homestand. Instead, the newly revamped offense pounded the Marlins for 25 runs, and the Mets had three quality starts.
"I know the additions have made a huge difference, not just hitting the ball,'' Collins said. "But having more veterans at this time of year just takes a lot of heat off the younger players that have not been through something like this.''
Uribe, acquired before the trade deadline, bashed a three-run shot in the fifth that buzzed the Clevelander nightclub beyond the leftfield fence at Marlins Park. His 10th homer came after a rally in the third, when Lucas Duda hit a two-run double to left-center.
Yoenis Cespedes also had a run-scoring single, and rookie Michael Conforto tacked on a sacrifice fly to complete the four-run third.
Harvey departed in the seventh with a 7-0 lead, having needed only 88 pitches to reach that point. He was pulled only as a nod to the Mets' desire to limit his innings.
In his last nine starts, Harvey is 4-3 with a 1.64 ERA. He improved to 17-1 when the Mets score at least four runs.
But just as important, he maintained a steady tone. In the last week, Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said, "I don't give a rap what the Mets are doing." Jayson Werth said, "It's our division to lose.''
Harvey responded by saying only, "We're definitely staying focused here in our clubhouse.'' And that focus involves increasing the Mets' lead in the NL East.
"We're not going to stop here,'' Harvey said. "We've got more games to go. And we want to put the pedal down.''