"That's exactly what this team's about," manager Terry Collins said. "That's exactly what this team's been about the two years I've been here. Due to the injuries, we've had to go to our Minor League system and ask for help. And all they've done is provided not just help, but guys who are huge producers on our team."
Coming off a rocky outing that put his roster spot in jeopardy, Hefner gave up a run in each of his first two innings, before settling down to retire 10 of 11 Phillies batters during one middle-innings stretch. But his most significant highlight came on offense, when Hefner launched a belt-high Joe Blanton fastball into the left-field seats for his first career home run, in just his second career at-bat.
"I almost missed first base watching the ball," Hefner laughed, noting that the Mets once considered drafting him as a hitter. "I was just trying to get a hit, trying to extend the inning, and I happened to get lucky and catch it good."
"[Blanton] couldn't get ahead of him, so you throw him a fastball right over the middle of the plate, and they run into one every now and again," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "A swinging bat is dangerous."
At the time, Hefner's shot gave the Mets a two-run lead, which was significant with thunderstorms threatening to wash over Citi Field at any moment. The rain did not arrive until the eighth, delaying things for an hour and four minutes and shoving Hefner's mound contributions into the past. Making his second start in place of Batista, Hefner lasted six innings, allowing three runs on six hits and no walks.
With Batista due back from the disabled list potentially in time to make his next start, the Mets may soon have to choose between him and Hefner, who gave up six runs following a lengthy rain delay in his last outing.
"Obviously I want to be here," Hefner said. "If I'm better suited in Triple-A, I understand that. But if I'm here, I'm going to give it my all, and I'm going to do everything I can to win ballgames."
After the Phillies plated their first run in the first, the Mets stormed back with two of their own in the bottom of the inning, scoring on RBI singles by David Wright and Ike Davis.
An inning later, Quintanilla doubled and scored on Mike Baxter's two-base hit. Recalled from Triple-A Buffalo prior to the game to replace Turner, who was himself replacing Ruben Tejada at shortstop, Quintanilla finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored; after his second hit, pinch-hitter Scott Hairston plated him with his team-high sixth home run.
"It felt good, especially to win," Quintanilla said. "That was an overall good team effort."
Rain began beating down heavily after the top of the eighth inning, bringing out the tarp and prompting the Mets to issue a severe-weather alert to those in attendance. But play resumed 64 minutes later, allowing Frank Francisco to nail down his sixth consecutive save with a scoreless ninth inning. And with that, the Mets moved back to a season-high six games above .500.
They have done it despite injuries to Tejada, Pelfrey, Jason Bay, Josh Thole and others, a rash widespread enough to threaten many of the club's improvements from last season. But the Mets have not complained. Collins reflected earlier in the day on one of his more painful stretches as manager of the Angels, when several of the team's primary contributors missed significant time due to injuries.
"Big, huge pieces were gone, and I was of the mind back then to almost [adopt a] 'Woe is me' attitude," Collins said. "I've learned you can't do that, because the players all of the sudden buy into it. So what we have to do is, the guys who are replacing them, make them believe they can play here."
That means trotting out a lineup with Baxter batting leadoff, Quintanilla at shortstop and Hefner on the mound -- and expecting to win with it.
So far, it's working.
"The guys that have gotten called up are doing well," Hefner said. "We never miss a beat whenever we come up here. We keep playing hard."