NEW YORK -- The Reds already have a tribute prepared for Jay Bruce, their longtime outfielder who is now with the Mets. They welcome the return of a player they traded last month, just as he welcomes the opportunity to play again in front of his fans.
If Bruce wants to make a good impression on those folks during the Mets' three-game series against the Reds beginning on Monday, he's given himself a decent chance. With a two-run homer and a single in the Mets' 5-1 win over the Nationals on Sunday, Bruce improved his average to .421 with one double, two home runs, four RBIs and three runs scored over his active five-game hitting streak.
"I told him we must be getting close to Cincinnati," manager Terry Collins said. "He's got that feel back."
In Bruce's estimation, he never lost it, despite opening his Mets career with a .163 average in his first 24 games. Along the way, fans at Citi Field wasted little time in booing him, the Mets' primary non-waiver Trade Deadline acquisition.
But Bruce felt he was still seeing the ball fine and swinging at the proper pitches -- he just wasn't hitting them. Now he is.
Bruce's two-run homer off Mat Latos gave him three extra-base hits in his last five games and also allowed him to eclipse 90 RBIs for the fourth time in his career.
"These guys hate failure," Collins said. "They hate that they're not helping the club. Hopefully, this guy gets as hot as we know he can, because he's going to have to carry us for a while."
That quest will resume on Monday in Cincinnati, where Bruce played the first eight and a half seasons of his career. A return means he will be able to see his wife and son for the first time since the trade that brought him to New York, as well as reconnect with old friends and acquaintances at Great American Ball Park.
But it is a business trip. And right now for Bruce, business is good.
"There are a lot of people that I have great relationships with back in Cincinnati that I respect a whole lot on the field, off the field," Bruce said. "It will be good to get back there. But at the end of the day, we're going to play ball and win games. I expect to do that there, too."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.