"I know right now we're in the hunt, and we like our chances because we like our club," Collins said Sunday. "If our pitching holds up, I'm thinking that on Oct. 3, we'll feel pretty good about it, whatever happens."
Well, that part's hit a snag already.
The Mets' starter for Friday in the first game of three on the road against Atlanta at Turner Field was initially Johan Santana, but he was held out because of a minor ankle injury. Then, his scheduled replacement, Dillon Gee, was also scratched for a potentially serious condition.
Gee was hospitalized Tuesday with numbness in the fingers of his right hand, and tests revealed a clot in the artery of his right shoulder. He's going on the disabled list, but there's no timetable for him to come back.
Right-hander Chris Young is now the guy. In six starts this season, the veteran is 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA. His last start came against the Phillies when he allowed three earned runs in seven innings. He will face fellow right-hander Tim Hudson of Atlanta.
This a big out-of-the gate series for both teams, too. Atlanta has just a half-game lead on New York for second place in the National League East, with the first-place Nationals sitting four games up on the Braves. The Mets have won seven of 11 and have taken four of six from Atlanta this season.
The Braves have won four straight after sweeping the Phillies, but are a modest 32-30 since a strong April. They will be trying to avoid the type of second half they experienced last season, when a 9-18 September capped a .500 post-break record and left them a game out in the NL Wild Card race.
Atlanta will host the Giants for three games after the Mets come to town, then head to Washington for a crucial four-game series. Of the Braves' first 29 contests after the break, 23 will come against division foes, who went 13-12 against Atlanta in the first half.
Despite Gee's situation, there are some positive health developments for the Mets. Closer Frank Francisco and outfielder Jason Bay are expected back soon. Strong second halves from first baseman Ike Davis and right fielder Lucas Duda could also help keep New York in the mix.
"I think we are where we are because these guys grind it out, which we have to do," Collins said. "They come every night and play nine innings. They play hard, they don't give up. They try to have quality at-bats."
Mets: Dickey returns to spot of only loss
The next game R.A. Dickey does start puts a pitcher who's on top of the world against the one team that had him pegged the last time they squared off.
Dickey, Saturday's scheduled Mets starter, is 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA on the season. But against the Braves, he's allowed 10 runs in 10 1/3 innings on four home runs, 13 hits, six walks and eight strikeouts.
Almost all of that damage came in Dickey's only loss, a 14-6 Braves win at Turner Field on April 18. Atlanta had seen Dickey 11 days before, in his first start of the year, when he went six innings and gave up two runs for a win in the Mets' 4-2 victory at Citi Field.
Dickey allowed one hit while striking out one in his one inning pitched in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Braves: Tough Hudson to open second half
Like Santana, Hudson had trouble with an ankle in his last start. On Friday at Philadelphia, he pitched through pain while throwing seven shutout innings.
"He's one of the toughest guys you're going to come across," catcher Brian McCann said. "He's going to take the ball every fifth day, and it's going to be tough to get him out of that game."
Hudson didn't notch a single strikeout against the Phillies, but walked only one and gave up four hits.
This will be Hudson's season debut against the Mets, since he was on the disabled list for the two series in April. But his 15 career wins against New York are his most against any team, while his 25 career starts are tied for most. Hudson owns a 3.46 ERA in those games, including 3.68 in five starts last season.
McCann cruised into the All-Star break with a home run and at least two RBIs in four straight games. He went 7-for-16 with four homers and 11 RBIs in that span, after getting some help from his father and his brother, a former All-American at Clemson.
"I went 240 at-bats of struggling and sometimes you just have to hit the reset button, and that's kind of what I did," said McCann, who still is hitting .238 with a .731 OPS for the season.
The Braves have won two of their three home games against the Mets this season, but are only 20-22 overall at Turner Field.
David Wright's 71 plate appearances against Hudson are tied for third most among active players, but Wright is hitting only .206 with a .613 OPS in those opportunities.