NEW YORK -- Given how many of their players are either on the disabled list, lost for the season or simply underperforming, consider this a minor miracle: After beating the Yankees, 4-1, on Thursday to split a four-game Subway Series, the Mets found themselves one game out of a playoff berth.
"We're very lucky to be where we are," Mets manager Terry Collins said, "and we've got to take advantage of it."
Thursday's formula was simple, and one the Mets will need to repeat often if they hope to keep pace with the Marlins, Cardinals and others down the stretch. Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer for his first hit with his new team, Bartolo Colon delivered 6 2/3 solid innings and the visiting Mets never faced much danger at Yankee Stadium, splitting each half of this year's home-and-home Subway Series.
After Kelly Johnson opened the scoring with a solo homer in the fifth inning off Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi, Bruce bashed his three-run homer to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. Colon and three relievers took care of things from there, with Jeurys Familia recording his league-leading 38th save.
"I try to think small," Bruce said. "Just understanding the situation, not putting that added pressure on yourself -- it took me some time to learn that. I've been practicing it for nine years now."
The Yankees plated their first run on Aaron Hicks' RBI single in the seventh, but could not muster anything else, falling back to .500.
"We had some missed opportunities a couple of different times, and then you look at the extra out we gave them [in the fifth inning]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Maybe Bruce hits a home run the next inning and we lose, 2-1, but we had some opportunities and didn't score."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Slump buster: Bruce was 0-for-10 as a Met when he stepped to the plate with two men on base and two outs in the fifth inning, crushing an Eovaldi slider over the right-center-field fence. Though it was Bruce's first home run since joining the Mets, it was actually his seventh in 10 games; he had hit six in five contests shortly before arriving in New York.
"It was good to do it in this spot," Bruce said. "Every non-out relaxes me a little bit. I make plenty of outs. So the less outs you make, the more relaxed you are." More >
Ground-ball machine: About the only real trouble Colon faced occurred in the second inning, which the Yankees opened with back-to-back hits from Brian McCann and Starlin Castro. But Colon coaxed ground balls out of the next two batters, allowing him to escape the inning unscathed. The 43-year-old stuck around until the bottom of the seventh, his only run crossing the plate after he was already out of the game. He became the first pitcher to record a victory for both the Mets and Yankees in Subway Series play.
"I would say all my stuff seemed to be working," Colon said through an interpreter. "I was kind of going with just straight fastballs at the beginning, then I was throwing the breaking balls and it seemed to be going well. So I'm very thankful for that."
Two bad pitches: Throughout this entire season, one thing has been consistent about Eovaldi -- home runs always derail him. Eovaldi allowed two home runs Thursday, the eighth time he's allowed multiple big flies in a game this year, bumping his season total up to 23. Aside from those home runs, however, Eovaldi wasn't all that bad, only allowing three other hits, two of which were singles, and walking two batters while striking out five in seven innings of work.
"I thought that I threw the ball really well tonight, and it was just that one inning that I kind of fell apart," Eovaldi said. "Johnson got that leadoff home run, and I thought I threw a good pitch to [Curtis] Granderson and he got that base hit. And then after that, Bruce finished it." More >
"I thought I would see him in the lineup. I was surprised not to see him, because we all know that he's always hit well against me. I always say, 'That's my dad.'" --Colon, on Alex Rodriguez, who was absent from the Yankees' lineup despite a career .442 average with eight home runs against him
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Mets outfielder Alejandro De Aza covered 69.2 feet, reaching a top speed of 19.6 mph to rob Gregorius of an extra-base hit in the fourth inning. Statcast™ calculated De Aza's route efficiency at 93.3 percent.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: The hardest-throwing starting pitcher in baseball, Noah Syndergaard, will match up against Justin Verlander, a former contender for that title, when the Mets travel to Detroit on Friday for the first of three games against the Tigers, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET. Syndergaard, who owns an almost pedestrian 3.76 ERA over his last seven outings, will lead the Mets into Comerica Park for the first time since 2011.
Yankees: Right-hander Michael Pineda will take the mound Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET as the Yankees open up a three-game series against the Indians at Yankee Stadium. A close loss in any game of that series might be even more devastating than normal, as recently traded former Yankee Andrew Miller is now a reliever for the Indians.