Commentary

The Mets are in the playoff race to stay

The Amazin's kept it rolling at home, beating up the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander

Updated: June 23, 2010, 10:47 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- This is getting both fun and serious.

The Mets did it again on Tuesday night. They won at Citi Field like they own the place.

[+] EnlargeJason Bay & Jose Reyes
AP Photo/Kathy KmonicekThe Mets' pitching has been outstanding, but the bats did the job Tuesday night.

It doesn't seem to matter what team comes to town or who is on the mound for the opposition.

The Mets bashed the Detroit Tigers 14-6 and in the process beat Detroit's ace, Justin Verlander.

For Mets fans, it was exactly the homecoming they were looking for after the Mets' very successful 7-2 road trip.

Many just weren't sure if the hot streak was real or just a product of the situation they were handed by the schedule-makers.

It's one thing to go on the road and get healthy against Baltimore and Cleveland, two of the worst teams in baseball. It's another thing to come home and tame the hot Tigers, who had won eight of their previous nine games.

"They are playing very good baseball,'' Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "It was just a great effort on our part.''

There are two things that Mets fans have to come to terms with: The Mets are a fun team to watch play at home; and, more importantly, they are for real.

It's not a fluke that the Mets have been able to dominate at Citi Field. The sample is too large to believe it's just a blip on the screen. They have now won 25 of their 35 games in Flushing -- that's the second-best home mark in baseball.

"It's a great win,'' said first baseman Ike Davis, who went 3-for-6 with three RBIs. "We came out with some energy and played real well today.

"I haven't been here long, but we haven't put up 14 [runs] in a while. It was exciting. Coming up, in every at-bat, it felt like I had two people on [base].''

It's fun not just for hitters when they bat around. The fans love it, too. Although it's not the same kind of team, this has to remind you of Shea in 1986, when those Mets just refused to lose. That championship season they went an amazing 55-26 at home.

It was a fun time to go out to the ballpark -- bad stadium and blowing hot-dog wrappers and all. That's what these Mets have done, too. There seems to magic night after night. In April, they swept a doubleheader from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In May, the Mets shut out the Phillies in three straight games, outscoring the defending National League champs 16-0.

In June thus far, Ike Davis hit a game-winning homer in the 11th inning against San Diego. Jonathon Niese pitched a one-hitter against the Padres in that series, giving up just a third-inning single.

Tuesday night, Mets fans were given an explosive eight-run third inning to enjoy. Verlander, who entered the game 8-4, gave up five runs in just two-plus innings. He never returned after the near-hour rain delay.

For sure, it was a night to feel good about your team -- which scored the most runs in a game it had scored in two years -- and the future.

"There's no doubt the fans have been superb all season long, especially here because we play very good baseball here,'' said shortstop Jose Reyes, who was 3-for-6 with an RBI.

The Mets (40-30) are in the race for the playoffs to stay.

Sure, there will be another slump at some point. It's a long season.

Still, it's clear they have all the ingredients to either win the NL East outright or grab that wild-card spot.

They have playoff-caliber pitching. Coming into the game, the Mets' starting pitchers were 18-5 with a stingy 2.78 ERA in their previous 31 games. And they can win at a superior level at home. If the season ended Tuesday night, the Mets would be your NL wild-card winner.

That's pretty amazing when you think of how the season started, with so much uncertainty and injuries to both Reyes and Carlos Beltran.

Reyes is back and playing like he did in the good old days. He came into the game batting .353 since May 20, the fifth-highest average in the NL during that stretch.

Now there's news that Beltran will start his minor league rehab assignment on Thursday with Single-A Port St. Lucie.

It means more help is on the way -- that this team, which has played well, can get even better.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com

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