WASHINGTON (AP) -In their snazzy suits and tailored jackets, luxury-brand luggage at the ready, a group of New York Mets gathered in front of the big clubhouse TV.
A five-game losing streak finally over, a trip to last-place Florida awaiting, Tom Glavine, David Wright and teammates stopped to root, root, root for a bit while watching the team that is chasing them - and bearing down on them - in the NL East.
As much as the Mets might talk about how pleased they are to ``control our own destiny,'' a little help never hurt.
So it was that a day that began with New York's lead over the Philadelphia Phillies down to 1 1/2 games - the Mets' smallest division margin since mid-July - ended with smiles and good feelings all around.
``It makes our flight easier to our next destination,'' outfielder Moises Alou said.
That's because he and the rest of the Mets went into Thursday with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phillies. The Mets won for the first time in a week by beating the Washington Nationals 8-4 Wednesday night, and about an hour later, the Phillies' six-game winning streak ended in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
``Any win from here on out is big. Every game becomes the biggest game of the year from here on out. So it's nice to enjoy it for tonight, but we have to get back at it tomorrow,'' Wright said. ``It's a grind from here on. Hopefully we can take a deep breath and start a nice little roll.''
Now New York needs to try to do a better job of taking advantage of a series against a lowly opponent.
The Mets managed to win only one of three games at the fourth-place Nationals. Next up: a four-game set at the fifth-place Marlins.
``I certainly go out there a little bit more relaxed,'' said Glavine, the left-hander who starts Thursday.
Before Wednesday's game, Mets manager Willie Randolph maintained that clubs such as the Nationals or Marlins are tough to play at this point in the season.
``Those are the dangerous teams right there. They don't have anything to lose. They can do off-the-wall things,'' he said. ``I'd rather be playing the Phillies and Atlanta right now, actually.''
Hmmm. Really? Well, the schedule has the Phillies at the Nationals next, while Randolph and the Mets must deal with the Marlins.
Randolph called the upcoming series, ``four games against a young team that wants to impress ownership and management and finish up strong, whether it's a salary drive or just the fact that they get a kick out of beating us.''
Said Mets closer Billy Wagner: ``They're going to step it up because they have a chance to do something to us.''
Over and over, Mets players spoke Wednesday night about having ``needed'' to avoid a sweep and what a ``big win'' it was. They held a players-only, closed-door meeting before Tuesday's game, then went out and lost again.
Catcher Paul Lo Duca showed up Wednesday with his head freshly shaved, something he and some other players did earlier in the season to drum up team spirit.
Lo Duca spoke about wanting to ``see what we're made of.''
He got to see plenty.
Lo Duca helped lead the way, driving in two runs before leaving with a bruised arm. Alou played into the seventh inning on a bum leg, saying he was in the lineup only because the playoff race was so tight, and contributed three hits and two runs. Wright delivered three RBIs, lifting his total past 100 for the third consecutive season.
There was more. Mike Pelfrey (3-7) contributed five solid innings for a third consecutive winning start. Reliever Jorge Sosa wiggled out of a runners-at-the-corners, no-outs jam in the sixth inning, keeping Washington from cutting into its deficit.
Not all was perfect, of course. The Mets made three more errors, giving them 13 in four games. And they gave up more hits than they collected, 12-11.
But as they were all quick to point out, only one thing matters right now.
``We're playing for wins. The stats, all that stuff, goes out the window. You don't look at saves, home runs. Nothing. Batting averages? Nothing counts. If I could go out there and give up 10 runs and we'd score 11 every night, I'd do it,'' Wagner said. ``We got a win and that's the goal.''

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