Flushing, New York

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Again this year, Jill's request for her 'Mothers Day Celebration' was to head to a Mets game, this time around at new CitiField. We left Binghamton early on Sunday morning and made the drive to the Big Apple. Being the swanky big spender I am, we even stopped at McDonald's in Gibson for breakfast!

We had seats in the left field lower seating area for this game. Good view of the game, and it certainly beat sitting in the upper deck! We were in the sun for part of the game, and then in the shade for the rest, and we all ended up with a bit of a sunburn when all was said and done. We had lunch at the El Verano Taquería where Jill and I both got chicken tacos, Mike had a pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke, and later we all had shakes from the Shake Shack, along with some fries. The Mets didn't disappoint, and won for all of the mom's in the crowd on this day!

We stopped at Quaker Steak and Lube in Carbondale on our way home to grab some dinner.

Pittsburgh Pirates 5, New York Mets 2

NEW YORK -- The Mets were coming off six consecutive wins last August, when they packed up their lunch pails for a Monday afternoon series finale against the Pirates. They were a hot team, perhaps the league's hottest. Yet despite running so good over the weekend, taking three straight from one of the league's worst clubs, the Mets dropped an uninspiring game in Pittsburgh, 5-2.

It proved to be just a blip in an otherwise fine month -- the Mets won their next four games, finishing August in first place after beginning it in second. But for a club that wound up missing the playoffs by one game for the second consecutive year, that loss came to exemplify a troubling trend. Against subpar teams -- the teams the Mets were supposed to beat -- they struggled.

What a relief it was then that the Mets, riding a six-game winning streak yet again, pounced on the Pirates for an 8-4 win at Citi Field on Sunday, capping both a series sweep and a perfect week.

"You feel too relaxed," Carlos Beltran said of those games against middling teams last season. "That was something that we talked about here as a team, and we're doing pretty good this year."

They're doing slightly better, at least. Playing their first game as a first-place team in the National League East since Opening Day, the Mets won rather handily to keep that status intact. They received their seventh consecutive quality start, this one from Livan Hernandez. And they hit so much late in the afternoon that a close game wound up more accurately resembling a rout.

It was precisely the type of "Look what we can do!" win that the Mets needed.

"I think we're a good team," third baseman David Wright said. "I think we just needed to get hot for an extended period of time to realize how good we really are."

Now they know. They know in part because Wright singled home a run in the fourth inning, and because Omir Santos knocked in two more runs two batters later. How comforting it must be that the Mets can suffer injuries to their top two catchers and still be able to plug a .300-hitting backstop into the lineup.

Hardly based on Santos' two-hit performance alone, manager Jerry Manuel said after the game that there was little chance he would consider demoting his third catcher back to the Minors when Brian Schneider returns from the disabled list.

"I've been blessed," Santos said.

He's been blessed, in part, with a pitching staff that hasn't run this hot all season. Johan Santana aside -- there's no use even discussing a pitcher with near-perfect credentials -- the Mets have managed to pitch so formidably that Manuel spent Sunday morning discussing how he might possibly find work for all of his relievers.

He didn't have an answer.

Nor could Manuel find a solution when Hernandez gutted his way through six innings on Sunday, allowing 11 baserunners in all but only permitting two of them to score. Hernandez, plucked off baseball's scrap heap at the start of Spring Training, is now 3-1. He, like the Mets, is on something of a streak.

"It was no fun when we were losing," Hernandez said. "We were talking very seriously, and we were talking about what people had to do. And now, everything's good that we're winning."

This one was a practice in frustration until the middle innings, when Wright noted that his teammates began making adjustments against an otherwise solid Ian Snell. And it was a close game until the later innings, when Beltran's two-run single off John Grabow all but ensured seven straight.

There were milestones reached -- Jose Reyes stole his 300th base -- and benchmarks cleared. The Mets had not won seven straight games since last July.

And yes, they did it against the Pirates, currently languishing with one of the worst records in the NL. But recall that the Mets also won two straight against the Nationals last month, only to drop the series finale. Recall that they won two straight against the Reds and the Brewers early in the year, only to settle for two out of three each time. This week's two-game series win over the Phillies may have been encouraging, but three straight over the Pirates is nearly as telling.

"The last couple of years, we learned about that, not to give it up when we play those kinds of teams," Reyes said. "This is baseball. You never know what's going to happen."

Followers in Flushing might disagree. The Mets have become consistent to such an extent that they do seem to know what's going to happen. For once, they expect success.

"We knew what kind of things we were capable of," Wright said. "We knew that we were a good team. We knew we had good players. We just had to kind of pull it all together."

Trip Notes:

Our seats for this game were Section 137, Row 6, Seats 12-13-14.