Mets take twin bill for sixth win in a row

Mets take twin bill for sixth win in a row

NEW YORK -- "Moderation in all things" is a timeless suggestion for all of us. In this game, the same phrase is a directive, particularly in April. Joe Torre once noted how difficult it is to hit without both feet on the ground. It was his take on the thread-bare baseball cliché "Never too high, never too low." Ah, but here are the Mets, winning an inordinate number of games, and the calendar hasn't changed since April Fool's Day. How can moderation be achieved? Where do they find it?

Since they departed St. Louis in the wee hours of April 19, nothing about their performance has been moderate. Rather, their pace has been torrid -- nine games, eight victories and so many good vibrations they're developing expectations they couldn't have fathomed when their record was 3-7. They won a doubleheader from Torre's Dodgers on Tuesday. It followed a three-game sweep of the Braves and winning three of four games against the Cubs. They have won six consecutive games, and, less than a week after they were in last place in the National League East, they are in first place, a half-game ahead of YouKnowWho.

And their most outrageous thought conveyed in the afterglow of their 4-0, 10-5 sweep was delivered in the unmeasured but moderate phrasing of Angel Pagan.

"This is fun," he said.

Better tone that down.

The Mets' first offensive outburst of the season was replete with single-inning production that matched some of their earlier full-game run totals. And their first game was the team's fourth shutout in merely 20 games. Moreover, the team saw some specific indications that the offense might be ready to do some heavy lifting.

David Wright produced three hits and four RBIs in the second game after he had singled twice and walked in the first game. Jason Bay hit his first Mets home run in the first game and tripled in the second. And Ike Davis drove in three runs in the second game. It wasn't too long ago that their swings were producing conspicuous zeros and pushing their manager to revise his batting order.

"I knew once some of those middle-of-the-order guys hit, it could be a lot of fun," manager Jerry Manuel said.

The Mets' offense compensated for a subpar performance by Oliver Perez in the second game. The 10 runs were a season high. Johan Santana and the revitalized bullpen extended the team's consecutive scoreless innings streak to 17 in the first game. No Mets team had pitched four shutouts in the first 20 games since 1998. And for lovers of the arcane, there is this: The sweep was the Mets' second in 21 doubleheaders against the Dodgers, the first since August 1971.


"Numbers are the language of the game. I'm glad to finally contribute to a win."
-- David Wright,
on his 1,000th hit

The extended workday provided so much for these Mets to process. Success hasn't come in abundance for almost a year. They won seven straight games in early May last year before they were undermined by injury. Perhaps it is the haunting memory of the trying summer of 2009 that helps contain their emotions at this early stage of '10, or merely a look back two weeks when they needed to play 20 innings -- and take three turns at bat against non-pitchers -- to win a game.

It didn't come easily then. It seemed to Tuesday. The last-place Dodgers didn't perform as poorly as the Cubs and Braves had, but they provided minimal resistance and supported their theory their manager spoke many times when he was the Mets' manager. Torre suggested that winning the second game of a doubleheader was a most challenging endeavor whether or not the first game had been won or lost. "I agree with that," Wright said. Even if it had the tone of Stengelese.

Perez added to the Mets' difficulty when he walked three batters and surrendered two hits in the fourth inning of Game 2. His work put an end to their scoreless streak at 20 innings. His replacement, Hisanori Takahashi, walked his first batter, forcing in the third and tying run. But Takahashi, the winning pitcher, pitched effectively thereafter. He struck out five -- he has 21 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings -- allowed two hits and walked one. Perez, winless in four starts, had allowed seven baserunners -- one was losing pitcher Charlie Haeger, who walked on four pitches to load the bases in the fourth -- and threw a wild pitch in 3 2/3 innings.

Manuel made excuses for him, noting the windy and chilly conditions. But comparable conditions existed earlier when Santana (3-1) pitched six innings and defeated the Dodgers for the third time in three career starts. He surrendered four hits, three singles and a triple and walked three batters, all in the second inning. He struck out six and threw 115 pitches, his high in five starts this season.

"No fun at all," Santana said, referring to the conditions -- temperatures in the 50s and winds that gusted to more than 30 miles per hour. "It was a weird day." The doubleheader began at 4:10 p.m. ET with relatively few fans in attendance.

"But I didn't let what was going on take over," Santana said. "I tried not to think about it."

Manuel said Perez's place in the rotation is not in jeopardy but added a footnote about Takahashi.

"He's making a strong case for himself to be a part of the rotation if we continue to have issues," said Manuel.

Takahashi's value, for now, is that he can provide innings as a staff saver when a starter falters earlier. But were he to replace Perez in the rotation, there would be a reduced need for those "Darren Oliver" innings.

After Takahashi took control, the Mets' offense beat up Haeger (0-3). It scored three times in the fifth and four times in the sixth. Wright, in his most productive game thus far, singled in a run in the fifth and hit his first triple of the season with the bases loaded in the sixth. He also walked and singled in his first two plate appearances. His single in the fifth was the 1,000th hit of his career. It barely moved him.

"Numbers are the language of the game," he said. "I'm glad to finally contribute to a win."

Bay contributed to both. He had gone 69 at-bats without a home run this season and 108 since his most recent home run, Sept. 21, last year. The streak of 108 was the longest of his career by 30 at-bats. It he said it barely mattered. Not to him perhaps, but his slow start left an impression on his colleagues.

"There was no panic," veteran Frank Catalanotto said. "The guys who are going to be your horses didn't get off to great starts, and they didn't panic. The same thing happened with the team. The way they carried themselves was big."

They call it leadership by example. Bay and Wright have provided it, Santana, too.

"No one stood up on a table and gave the 'Braveheart' speech," Bay said.

No one wants to wear a kilt.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.