The Mets made a statement in the opening month, going 10-2 -- including a seven-game winning streak -- to start the season. After an Opening Day win at home, the Mets lost to the Nationals in the second game, dropping them to 1-1 and into second place, a half-game behind the Braves, who were 2-1. A day later, the Mets beat the Nats and moved back into first place, where they stayed for the rest of the year. The starting rotation at the beginning of the month would change drastically over the next three months as the Mets used 13 different starters. But the performances by the starters enabled the Mets to establish dominance in the NL East with Pedro Martinez (five April wins) and Tom Glavine (three) leading the way. Steve Trachsel and Brian Bannister won two games apiece and, along with Victor Zambrano, helped form a pitching staff that was tops in the Majors, compiling a 3.27 ERA throughout the month. But Bannister would be lost for a majority of the season when he suffered a strained hamstring running the bases on April 26. Carlos Delgado had nine home runs and 20 RBIs in the month, while Carlos Beltran, who was booed in his first few games at home, changed things by going .279 with four homers and 11 RBIs throughout April. After a 4-3 trip on the West Coast, the Mets ended the road trip by taking two of three from the Braves in Atlanta to finish the month six games ahead in first place.
The Mets began May similar to the way they started April, winning five of their first six. But less than 10 days after losing Bannister, the Mets found themselves looking for another starter when Zambrano suffered a season-ending injury to his right elbow on May 6. Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez proved they weren't viable replacements as the Mets suffered a 3-6 road trip to Philadelphia, Milwaukee and St. Louis, which proved costly as the Mets' lead fell to one game on May 14. But the Mets returned home and beat the Yankees, two games to one, in an Interleague series and finished the month 8-4 to boost their lead in the NL East to 4 1/2 games. Lima would be designated for assignment and Alay Soler would make his Major League debut. During the month, second baseman Kaz Matsui, who was eventually traded, was benched for Jose Valentin, while Orlando Hernandez and Dave Williams were acquired via trades. Lastings Milledge made his Major League debut when right fielder Xavier Nady had an emergency appendectomy.
The month of June turned into the most decisive one. After losing two of three to the Giants at home, the Mets traveled out West as part of a 10-game road trip, going 5-1 against the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks before sweeping three games in Philadelphia. When the Mets returned home on June 16, they held a 9 1/2-game lead in the NL East. Cliff Floyd suffered the first of his multiple injuries this season when he sprained his left ankle in Los Angeles. Milledge and Endy Chavez filled in nicely until Nady returned from the DL. David Wright and Jose Reyes helped the Mets overcome injuries with their offensive production throughout the month. Wright was named the NL's Player of the Month, batting .327 with 20 runs, four doubles, 10 home runs and 29 RBIs, while Reyes garnered back-to-back NL Player of the Week awards in the last two weeks of June. The Mets survived a disappointing 3-6 road trip to Toronto, Boston and the Bronx that overlapped into July and included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox. Glavine raised his season record to 11-2 during the month as well.
After the Subway Series ended with an ugly 16-7 loss at Yankee Stadium, the Mets suffered an 11-1 loss at home to the Pirates on July 3. But then the Mets won five of the next seven to stake a 12-game lead at the All-Star break. John Maine entered the starting rotation in place of Soler and, though he lost his first three games, he demonstrated the skills to pitch 26 consecutive innings of scoreless ball from the end of July into August. The Mets sent seven players to the All-Star Game, where Wright finished second in the Home Run Derby and hit a home run in his first career All-Star Game at-bat. The Mets went 4-2 on a short road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati to start the second half. After a 3-3 homestand against the Astros and the Cubs that included a three-game losing streak, the Mets finished the month with an impressive three-game sweep in Atlanta that dashed the Braves' hopes of making any type of comeback in the NL East. Martinez made only one appearance in the month after spending time on the DL because of a sore right hip sustained in May. Maine picked up his first win and established himself as a reliable starter, while El Duque earned three victories during the month. The end of the month became a difference maker in terms of trades as Duaner Sanchez suffered a season-ending injury in Florida, forcing Omar Minaya to deal Nady to the Pirates for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez.
The month of August was the most dramatic for the Mets in terms of injuries as they lost Martinez, Glavine, Floyd and Ramon Castro. Martinez pitched only three times and went on the DL with a sore right calf after his Aug. 14 start in Philadelphia. Glavine felt discomfort in his left arm and hand, and while blood clots were feared, the veteran left-hander did not go on the DL, but did miss a few starts. Floyd spent time again on the DL because of a strained left Achilles, while Castro originally went on the DL because of an injury to his left rib cage but was later lost until the final week of the season when he sustained torn ligaments in his left knee during his rehabilitation. During the month, the Mets acquired Guillermo Mota to help with the bullpen and Shawn Green to start in right field. Backup catchers Mike DiFelice and Kelly Stinnett teamed up to fill Castro's spot. Even though they experienced several key injuries, the Mets still were able to increase their lead in the East to 15 1/2 games with the help of a seven-game winning streak towards the end of the month. Trachsel won four games, while Maine earned three wins, with Williams filling in nicely with two wins. In the last two games of the month, Wright broke out of his slump with homers in consecutive days, having gone over a month without one.
The Mets began September with two wins in Houston and, after losing two consecutively, won three in a row at home over the Braves and the Dodgers to move closer to clinching the division. Glavine returned on Sept. 1 to pitch five innings against the Astros, giving up seven hits and six runs. On Sept. 6 against the Dodgers, Glavine proved he was healthy with a scoreless five-hit outing in 6 1/3 innings at home. Perez delivered a shutout against the Braves on the sixth. Martinez returned on the 15th in Pittsburgh, but lost, 5-3, and showed signs that he was not completely healthy. After three straight losses to the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Mets clinched the division on Sept. 18 behind Trachsel's scoreless 6 1/3 innings, in which he scattered three hits. Martinez, however, lasted five innings against the Marlins at home on the 21st, allowing four hits and four runs in the Mets' 5-2 loss, and he was hit hard in Atlanta, giving up eight hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. After the game, it was decided to shut him down for the rest of the season because of an injury to his left calf.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.