NEW YORK -- Douse the flame on manager Jerry Manuel's hot seat. Heck, why not even pick up his 2011 option already?
The New York Mets, who returned to Citi Field having lost four straight series to open the season, have resurrected themselves in a week. With Saturday's 3-1 win against the Atlanta Braves, the Mets climbed to .500 for the first time since April 9. They also ensured their second straight series win.
"Five hundred is nothing to throw a party about by any means," left fielder Jason Bay said. "But from where we came from, at 4-8, coming off a rough road trip -- a rough start, really -- it's a step."
Said right fielder Jeff Francoeur: "We're 5-1 on the home stand. We've got a chance to go for a sweep tomorrow night. We haven't had a chance to do that all year. We're playing great baseball."
On a day perennial tormenter Chipper Jones celebrated his 38th birthday by striking out twice and departing in the third inning after feeling a pop in his right hip, the sudden positive vibes continued for the Mets:
Bay continued to show signs of breaking out of his rut by driving in No. 3 hitter Jose Reyes with an extra-base hit for the second straight game, this time to even the score at 1 in the sixth. Bay actually had a three-hit day, although it's worth noting the Braves lost his otherwise-routine eighth-inning fly ball in a tough sun in center field and he was credited with a single.
"That's called a 'personality knock' right there," Bay said about the lost fly ball. "It keeps you sane. All those rough at-bats and all those line drives, it was one of those ones that lets you exhale a little bit. By no means was it scorched, but you need a few of those every now and then to keep your sanity."
Right-hander Manny Acosta, claimed off waivers from the Braves on March 30, and promoted when Ryota Igarashi landed on the disabled list, shut down his former team. Acosta recorded five outs after taking over for Niese and picked up the victory.
Henry Blanco, the 38-year-old veteran catcher, continued his unheralded contribution. Not only did Blanco shave his catcher's ERA to 1.26 (six earned runs in 43 innings caught), he also threw out his fourth straight would-be base stealer to open the season. He became the first Met since Rick Cerone in 1991 to open a season by throwing out the first four runners attempting steals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Blanco also stole a base himself -- the fifth swipe of his career and his first since 2001 with Milwaukee. He had not even tried since 2004, when he caught Johan Santana's first American League Cy Young campaign with the Minnesota Twins.
"Hey, man, don't let the age fool you," Blanco said with a laugh. "They asked me if I could go. So I just went. Whatever happens, I'm trying to be safe. Obviously it wasn't a good throw."
Francisco Rodriguez, who didn't have a save through 15 games, now has converted save chances on three straight days. That puts a two-save cushion between the closer and Mike Pelfrey, who picked up the first one of his career in last Saturday's 20-inning affair in St. Louis.
"I'm the leader now," Rodriguez playfully boasted. "I'm going to have to make sure now he stays in second place."
What about a fourth save in four days Sunday?
"That's right," K-Rod said. "I'll be out there every day."
Suddenly, it was the Braves with all the miscues. A day after Atlanta had four errors, and with Niese on the ropes with two runners in scoring position and one out in the fifth, Troy Glaus lined out to Francoeur in medium right field. Martin Prado tagged up from second to third. The problem? Yunel Escobar didn't tag up from third to home. The double play was scored: 9-9-4-5-6 as Niese was bailed out.
Remember, this is the Braves team that was so fundamentally sound as it marched to 14 straight division titles before getting unseated by the Mets in 2006, David Wright once groused after a sloppy game by the Mets in Atlanta: "There's a reason they do it every single year."
With Saturday's victory, the Mets jumped over Atlanta (8-9) in the standings and moved out of last place.
"Early on we didn't have anything go our way," Bay said. "Every ball was an inch foul, and every call was -- not against us -- but the close calls, we weren't getting anything. And now, all of a sudden, we're getting some timelier hitting and some breaks. The biggest thing is we're not squandering the opportunities that we get."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.