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NEW YORK -- What a difference a week makes.
Actually, make that a week and two days. In that short a span, and in stunning fashion, the Mets have gone from being a team in crisis to first place in the National League East after Tuesday's sweep of a twinight doubleheader against the Dodgers.
"We're playing pretty good baseball," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I knew that once some of those middle-of-the-order guys hit, that it could be a lot of fun for 'em. And they're gettin' after it pretty good."
|Jason Bay homered in Game 1 and added a triple in Game 2.|
In Game 1, a 4-0 Mets victory, the pitching was the key. Ace Johan Santana threw six scoreless innings, and Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano backed him up with three more.
In Game 2, a 10-5 Mets rout, the offense led the way. David Wright, who may finally be emerging from his early-season funk, went 3-for-3 with 4 RBIs. And Jason Bay, the team's other slugger off to a slow start, had a triple and an RBI, following up on his first home run as a Met in the first game of the day.
"I'm glad I could finally contribute to a win," Wright said. "The guys behind me, the guys in front of me have stepped up the first couple weeks of the season, so it was good to be able to contribute."
After a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, April 18, the Mets stood 4-8 through the season's first 12 games. Many people were already calling for manager Jerry Manuel's head.
But the team has responded well to adversity.
"I think the biggest thing is, there was no panic," Bay said. "All of a sudden you win a few games and you get that swagger, you get that confidence. It's hard to play with that little chip on your shoulder when you're 4-8."
Now the Mets have won six straight games and eight of their last nine, and shockingly reside at the top of the standings after the Phillies and Marlins both lost on Tuesday night.
Pitching has been the driving force behind this prolonged hot streak. In their last 13 games, the Mets' starting pitchers have posted a sparkling 1.48 ERA, allowing just 12 earned runs in 73 innings.
Santana wasn't at his sharpest on Tuesday; he had to throw 115 pitches just to get through six frames. He admitted the weather conditions presented a challenge -- the first-pitch temperature on Tuesday afternoon was a very chilly 53 degrees.
"It was too cold, windy, couldn't get anything going," Santana said. "But at the same time, we battled through it."
Santana somehow kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard, and he's now 3-1 on the year. Combine that with the wonderful performance by Mike Pelfrey so far this season (4-0, 0.69 ERA), and the Mets appear to have a big-time 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.
|Johan Santana battled the cold and wind, and still baffled the Dodgers.|
Oliver Perez, the Mets' starter in Tuesday's nightcap, struggled once more, lasting just 3 2/3 innings and giving up three runs on three hits and four walks. But Hisanori Takahashi, Jenrry Mejia and Raul Valdes kept the Dodgers at bay, relinquishing just two more runs the rest of the way.
And now the offense appears to be cooking as well. Wright and Bay had breakout days on Tuesday. The rookie, Ike Davis, continues to impress in just his second week in the big leagues, with two hits and three RBIs on the day. And the team clearly seems to have responded well to the move of Jose Reyes to third in the batting order last week.
"We're not gonna be a team built on one guy winning it for us all the time," Bay said. "We've had a lot of guys chip in."
That, perhaps, is the most remarkable thing about the Mets' current run -- the chemistry that seems to be bubbling up in their clubhouse. In seasons past, the Mets have been widely criticized for their lack of clubhouse cohesion. But this year's team might have a different formula.
"I've said all along that I like the personalities that we have in here," Wright said. "I think we have the right attitude, as far as going out and playing for one another, playing for the good of the team. ... Maybe part of it is the failure that we've had [in recent years] has brought everybody a little bit closer. I think everybody has kind of realized that we have to play as a unit to be successful.
"This city doesn't want great individual performances. They want winners. They want teams that win."
This city has one team like that, in the Bronx. Perhaps we're watching another one being born before our very eyes, in Queens.
Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter.