Healthy Reyes leading Mets' charge
Effervescent shortstop proving, once again, to be New York's main catalyst
NEW YORK -- The engine. The firecracker. The spark plug.
Two words that fit Reyes best right now? Healthy and productive.
Reyes recorded his fourth straight multihit game on Wednesday night, going 2-for-4 with an RBI single and his first home run in more than a year in the Mets' 5-0 win over the Phillies.
Since Jerry Manuel moved Reyes from the No. 3 hole to the leadoff spot on May 15, the Mets' shortstop is hitting .300 with nine runs scored, one double, one triple, one homer and five RBIs.
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Reyes' average has climbed from .215 to .238 since returning to the leadoff spot.
The average still isn't where he'd like it to be, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
"I feel more happy, the way that I'm hitting," said Reyes, who hadn't homered since May 7, 2009, prior to blasting an 81 mph slider from Joe Blanton into the bullpen in the third inning on Wednesday.
Reyes says he finally feels like himself again after dealing with injury and illness in 2009 and earlier this season.
The shortstop missed most of last season with knee and hamstring injuries, playing in just 36 games. He then missed three weeks of spring training and the first week of the regular season with a thyroid condition. Reyes couldn't do any physical activity when he was first diagnosed this spring.
"Right now, yes," Reyes said when asked if he feels like himself after all of the games missed over the past two seasons. "When I get on base two, three times, I feel like me. It's been a struggle for me since I come back. Hopefully I can continue to be consistent like that. Because I know if I continue like that, this team's going to play better."
Reyes certainly hasn't let his defense suffer this season.
That much was evident Wednesday night when he made a leaping grab on Greg Dobbs' line drive with two outs in the ninth to seal the Mets' first back-to-back shutouts of the Phillies in 12 seasons.
Reyes also made a great over-the-shoulder grab on Brian Schneider's shallow fly ball to center with one out in the fifth and a runner on first.
The Mets' shortstop entered the night with a fielding percentage of .983 (his highest percentage in his eight-year career was .982, in 2007).
"It's the best defense I've played," he said before the game.
It's not surprising that Reyes' resurgence has coincided with the Mets' recent hot streak.
With Wednesday's win, the Mets improved to 16-4 when Reyes scores a run. Since 2005, the Mets are 264-108 when Reyes scores and 387-323 when he doesn't.
They've now won four of five since their disastrous 2-6 road trip and are just three games behind the first-place Phils, with Mike Pelfrey on the mound against Cole Hamels in Thursday's series finale.
Regardless of what happens Thursday, the Mets have won two straight series against the teams that participated in last year's World Series (the Mets took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend). And it's not surprising that Reyes' fingerprints were all over those wins.
"He's the engine, that's what I like to call him," Francisco Rodriguez said. "He's the engine of our offense. We know he's not a .210, .220, .230 hitter. When he comes out of the slump, the way he is now, it's going to be easier for everybody."
The engine, the firecracker, the spark plug. The Mets can call him whatever they want, as long as he's on the field.
Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com
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