Twins-Mets preview

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets are trying not to think about the possibility of hosting the National League wild-card game and instead focusing on just getting into the playoffs. The Minnesota Twins have no choice but to look far ahead -- to next year -- while taking what they can from the final weeks of a lost season.

The Mets look to continue their push for a playoff berth Saturday night when they host the Twins in the middle contest of a three-game series at Citi Field. New York (78-69) extended its lead in the race for the second wild card to two games Friday night when it beat the Twins 3-0 while the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants 8-2.

The Mets are one game behind the Giants (79-68) in the race for the first wild card. Whomever wins the first wild card hosts the game Oct. 5.

After appearing to be finished four weeks ago -- the Mets were 60-62 and 5 1/2 games behind the second wild card Cardinals on Aug. 19 -- manager Terry Collins and his players are only concerned with qualifying for the wild card game.

"I think the mindset is just getting in the postseason right now," Collins said. "We've got to just continue to try to win as many games as we can.

"We made a statement about three weeks ago that we've just got to take care of our business. And if we do, we'll get back in the hunt. We're in the hunt. Deeply."

Rookie right-hander Seth Lugo, one of the players most responsible for the Mets' surge, is scheduled to take the mound Saturday night. Lugo has won his last four starts --including last Sunday, when he gave up two runs over seven innings in a 10-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves -- and is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in five starts since joining the rotation Aug. 19, a stretch in which New York is 18-8.

Such a performance would be noteworthy coming from any rookie, but especially from Lugo, a 26-year-old former 34th-round draft pick who had a 6.50 ERA in 21 games (14 starts) this season at Triple-A Las Vegas, which plays in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

The Twins (55-93), who have the worst record in baseball, counter with ace Ervin Santana. Santana is 1-0 despite a 4.76 ERA in his last four starts. He didn't factor into the decision in his most recent appearance Monday, when the right-hander gave up one run over five innings in Minnesota's 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

The 33-year-old Santana will be one of the few 30-somethings on the field for the Twins, who had six players younger than 30 in their lineup Friday. First baseman Joe Mauer, 33, will likely play Saturday, thought catcher Kurt Suzuki, 32, could get a night off after taking a foul ball off his chin in the seventh inning.

Brian Dozier, the Twins' 29-year-old second baseman who extended his hitting streak to 20 games by going 1-for-4 on Friday, hopes his younger teammates can absorb something from watching the Mets pursue a playoff berth.

"The opportunity to kind of learn these last couple of weeks, to see these teams and how they play when they are in the running for something special -- that's what you have to take from these games right now," Dozier said.