"As a team, that's something we can laugh about, kind of, because we're playing well and we know what kind of team we have this year," Francoeur added. "It kind of shows you just how bad things were last year and how bad we've been on the road this year. [It's] something no team wants to do, and it's almost hard to think that it's actually possible, but I guess it is."
Well, it was, until a gutty effort by left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who threw seven innings of one-run ball, was accompanied by some timely hitting that followed a tried-and-true baseball script. The Mets got an early lead, made the most of meager offense and got some insurance late. Jose Reyes led off the game with a home run, the Mets scratched out the go-ahead run when the Orioles couldn't complete an inning-ending double play in the sixth and Francoeur homered in the eighth for an important add-on tally.
"I guess that is hard to believe," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said when reminded that the team last won consecutive road games on July 25-26, 2009, at Houston. "Is that right? Wow."
Takahashi (5-2), the 35-year-old rookie who pitched 10 seasons for the Japanese Central League's Yomiuri Giants, allowed six hits, walked one and struck out two in his longest Major League outing. The southpaw had been 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in six appearances, including one start, on the road. In his two most recent starts, he had yielded 11 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings in a loss and a no-decision.
The Mets, whose nine road victories were tied for the third fewest in the Majors entering the game, had gone 0-7-2 in nine series before taking the first two games of this three-game Interleague set. It was the Mets' longest streak without a series victory since 1983, when they started the season 0-13-3 away from Shea Stadium.
"We just have to keep playing good baseball, and things will happen for us," Manuel said. "We've been playing good baseball for a long time and haven't really gotten a break. Tonight I thought we got a break on that [possible] double play where we scored an extra run."
With the score tied at 1 in the sixth, Ruben Tejada singled to center off Brian Matusz (2-7), who had retired 12 of 13 at that point, picking off the lone runner to reach in that span. Reyes' sacrifice sent Tejada to third, and Angel Pagan's single to right put runners on the corners.
David Wright then grounded Matusz's first pitch back to the mound, but the left-hander's attempt at an inning-ending 1-4-3 double play went awry when the throw from second baseman Julio Lugo pulled first baseman Ty Wigginton off the bag, allowing Tejada to score for a one-run lead en route to that long-awaited series win.
"To put that in the rearview mirror and keep playing is probably a confidence boost for the guys in the clubhouse that they can win road games," Manuel said.
With the lead secure, the Mets let Takahashi finish his stellar effort on a muggy night. After he allowed the Orioles to tie the score in the bottom of the first, on doubles by left-handed hitters Corey Patterson and Nick Markakis, the southpaw made adjustments to keep the lefty swingers from hurting him further.
"It's the same pitches," Takahashi said through interpreter Yoichi Terada. "But they anticipated it coming -- maybe a slider, maybe a curveball -- but I [thought] of that, too. I changed their mind. They think a slider is coming, and I throw a fastball."
In other words, Takahashi stayed a step ahead of the hitters.
"[On] fastball counts, [Takahashi] was throwing changeups to our big hitters, keeping them off balance, changing speeds, moving the ball in and out," said interim Baltimore manager Juan Samuel. "And any time you do that, you're going to have guys off balance ... and he did that tonight."
It was a welcome sight for those who knew how hard Takahashi had been trying to produce since moving into the rotation on May 21.
"I was happy for Taki. The last couple of starts [were] not what he wanted," Francoeur said. "People were asking about him, and I thought he came out and threw great. ... He gave us seven strong [innings]."
Not to mention some eagerly anticipated road success for the Mets, who have quietly moved six games over .500.
"I hope we quietly keep climbing," Francoeur said. "We'll just keep winning games. That's the key: win series. Then, when you win a series, you try to sweep the series. That would be big."