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PHILADELPHIA -- A pair of New York Mets were viewing a satirical Maxim article titled "A day in the life of Mr. Met" before Friday's opener against the Philadelphia Phillies -- and were allowing themselves to be amused by the one-liners, considering the abrupt reversal of the team's fortunes.
"Eleven a.m.," the player read aloud from his digital device. "Put finishing touches on new Mets catchphrase for 2010: 'Slightly more exciting than the WNBA.'"
These days, the Mets no longer are a punch line.
Behind homers from David Wright, Jeff Francoeur and two from Rod Barajas -- and stellar catches from Jason Bay and Francoeur -- the Mets won their eighth straight game, 9-1 over the Phillies on Friday night.
Now, as the calendar flips to May, the first-place Mets lead the second-place Washington Nationals in the National League East standings.
|Right fielder Jeff Francoeur makes an impact with a homer and hustling catch.|
(We'll pause for a second while you digest that.)
Since the Mets lost four straight series to open the season and imperiled manager Jerry Manuel's job, they have now won 10 of 11. Their current streak is the longest since they won 10 straight from July 5 to July 17, 2008, shortly after Manuel succeeded Willie Randolph at the helm.
What's going right?
Just about everything.
The Mets' bats, which had been quiet early on, began to show life during the 9-1 homestand. That only continued in Game 1 in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
Wright opened the scoring with a two-run shot to center off Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick in the second inning. It was Wright's fourth long ball this season -- a total he did not achieve until June 9 last year. The third baseman, who went 5-for-7 with four RBIs, a walk and no strikeouts in the final two games of the homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers, relishes playing in Philly. He now has 12 homers at the ballpark, surpassing the 11 he has produced at Turner Field in Atlanta for the most at a site outside Queens in his career. Wright has 38 RBIs in 49 career games in Philly.
Neither Wright nor Francoeur had homered since April 14 at Coors Field, when both went deep in the third inning off Colorado Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook. Francoeur followed Wright's shot Friday night with a solo homer in the second off Kendrick. Barajas had two subsequent solo homers, the latter in the ninth inning to take over the team lead at five from Wright and Francoeur (four apiece).
"It definitely felt good to hit some that went out -- and get credit for it," Francoeur said, alluding to some recent mammoth shots at Citi Field that struck the wall and stayed in play. "It was nice. We fed off each other. David had that huge hit. I got the one. Rod got the one. It was like the first five or six hits were extra-base hits. We were kidding around, 'The first person that makes a single, we're going to fine 'em 50 bucks.'"
Barajas -- who had four homers in 48 games while playing for the Phillies in 2007 -- now has six homers in seven games against them since departing, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He went deep in the fifth inning off Kendrick to give the Mets a 4-1 lead.
"You want to have success regardless of where you play," Barajas said. "It just happens to be whenever I come here, I happen to be swinging the bat better than I do some other places."
Entering the series, Mets starting pitchers had a 1.59 ERA in the past 14 games. Jon Niese continued that stellar string of performances, thanks to a pair of superb second-inning plays by his fielders.
After a leadoff single by Jayson Werth, Francoeur raced to the wall in right-center to snare Raul Ibanez's shot. Francoeur slammed his right knee into the chain-link fence while making the catch, but shooed away Manuel and the training staff after they took one step out of the dugout. After Carlos Ruiz's RBI single later in the inning, and with two out and two on, Bay jumped at the wall in left field to catch Shane Victorino's shot.
Bay's catch became the second of 14 straight outs recorded by Niese, who picked up his first 2010 victory.
While the Mets have been playing nearly flawlessly, their opponents -- the Cubs, the Braves, the Dodgers and now the Phillies -- have been doing the opposite during the surge.
Barajas, catching Niese, could not handle a third strike from the rookie in the fifth inning, and the baseball squirted away. Victorino halfheartedly jogged to first base, buying time for Barajas to recover and retire him with a throw to first baseman Ike Davis.
"When you win, it seems like you do all those things, and if you make a mental mistake the things don't get noticed," Wright said. "But when you lose, all the little things start getting noticed, and there's got to be reasons for you losing. I'm glad we're taking advantage of some mistakes by the other team and really catching some breaks, which you need over the course of 162 games."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.