- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- The steamroller otherwise known as the New York Mets has a full tank of gas and is pointed toward Philadelphia.
The Mets played like a first-place team Wednesday afternoon -- which is what they are, remarkably, after punctuating a historic 9-1 homestand with a 7-3 win over the Dodgers. They jumped all over a rookie pitcher early on. They got strong pitching themselves. And every player in their lineup made a positive contribution.
"When you get on a roll, you try to ride it as long as you can," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "And that's what we're doing."
This equals the best homestand in franchise history. The Mets have gone 9-1 on a homestand twice before: in August 1969 (they went on to win the World Series) and September 1988 (they went to the National League Championship Series).
The Mets are a long, long way from the playoffs -- it's still April, folks. But over the course of 10 days, they've climbed from last place (4-8) to first place (13-9). And now they head to the City of Brotherly Love for a three-game set with the two-time defending National League champion Phillies.
This 10-game stretch began with the much-anticipated debut of rookie first baseman Ike Davis, which injected a little excitement into a downtrodden team. And it ended with the Mets clicking on all cylinders against the Dodgers -- rather appropriate, because it seems as though everything came together for this club in the past week and a half.
Let's begin with Wednesday's starting pitcher. John Maine came in with an 0-1 record and an 8.64 ERA. He had to leave his last start after 3 2/3 innings because of muscle spasms and pain in his non-throwing elbow. But he had no health problems this time around, throwing six solid innings, giving up three runs (two earned) and striking out nine batters, the second-highest total of his career.
Manager Jerry Manuel lauded Maine, and his fastball, after the game.
"It was moving in the zone, had that late life to it, and he stayed with it," Manuel said. "Outstanding job for him. That was something we needed to see. I'm glad we saw it today."
"I felt a little more comfortable with my mechanics," Maine said. "It's still a work in progress, but I felt a lot better."
Then there's the bullpen, which put up three more zeroes on the scoreboard Wednesday. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano appear practically automatic right now in their setup roles. And Francisco Rodriguez, who hadn't seen any action since Saturday, handled the ninth even though it wasn't a save situation.
"Our [bullpen] guys have come in and done very well," Manuel said. "The way we're going right now, I could probably go in the game and get a few outs."
This team is so hot, he might be right.
Things are going just as well on the offensive end. The first seven batters in the order all had at least one hit Wednesday. The No. 8 hitter, catcher Rod Barajas, was 0-for-2 but reached base twice and scored a run. The starting pitcher, Maine, laid down a successful sacrifice bunt. Even pinch-hitter Frank Catalanotto had a double in the eighth inning.
"I think the thing about our team right now is, we appear youthful. We seem to be very youthful," Manuel said. "I mean, with Ike Davis, Jose Reyes running around Francoeur, [Angel] Pagan, even the new catchers. We just appear that way at this point.
"I think that's a key for us in going forward, is that hopefully we can keep that type of spirit as we continue to play."
The overall numbers for the homestand are impressive. The Mets outscored their opponents by more than double, 48-23. And their pitching staff posted a 2.09 team ERA over the 10-game span.
Some people will say the Mets beat up on three teams -- the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers -- that aren't playing their best baseball right now. The Mets don't seem to care.
"To be 9-1, it doesn't matter who you're playing, that's pretty impressive," Bay said. "You just hope that continues."
The steamroller will now head south. Will this hot streak last? Of course not. Are there still serious question marks, particularly at the back end of the starting rotation? Sure. But those questions are a lot more palatable with the team in first place, as opposed to last place.
"I think this whole homestand gives us confidence going forward," David Wright said.
Confidence -- a feeling Mets fans haven't had much of in a long, long time.
Whatever happens from here, good or bad, this is a stretch they won't soon forget.
Confident after 9-1 homestand, first-place Mets motor toward Philadelphia.