Commentary

Out with old Mets, in with outbursts

With another five-run inning, Mets are all the rage on road as they chase first place

Updated: June 17, 2010, 11:15 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

CLEVELAND -- Manager Jerry Manuel checked the out-of-town scoreboard at Progressive Field, with the New York Mets suddenly surging on the road and finding themselves a half-game behind first-place Atlanta entering Wednesday's play.

"I could see all the scores. Yeah, I saw the score," Manuel said, referring to the Rays-Braves contest.

Still, Manuel confessed about that game's score: "I actually forgot what it was."

The Mets ran their winning streak to six games on Wednesday with an 8-4 win against the Cleveland Indians, but taking over the National League East lead for the first time since May 1 will have to wait. The Braves topped the Rays 6-2 to remain in first place.

"Bearer of bad news," Manuel kidded when the score was relayed to him.

Manuel had more important issues to deal with anyway, although an injury to left fielder Jason Bay did not appear too serious.

[+] EnlargeJon Niese
AP Photo/Tony DejakUp in the air? Not this game, thanks to seven innings from Jon Niese and support from the Mets' offense.

Bay tripped and went airborne after being accidentally checked by Indians first baseman Andy Marte while beating out an infield single in the second inning. He was replaced in left field by Jesus Feliciano in the sixth inning. Bay officially has a left quadriceps bruise and is day-to-day, although he described it as a "charley horse" and indicated he hopes to talk his manager into allowing him to start Thursday.

"I was trying to beat it out, lunging forward with my right leg, and he kind of -- through no fault of his own or anything -- got in the middle of the baseline," Bay said about Marte. "I was on my right foot and he kind of hit the left quad. I was leaning so far forward I didn't really have a chance to catch myself.

"Actually, I looked more acrobatic than I thought when I saw the replay. I absorbed it pretty good. It just got me in the middle of the quad. And as the game went on it kind of knotted up a little bit."

The next inning, behind four straight doubles from Angel Pagan, David Wright, Ike Davis and Bay, the Mets staked left-hander Jon Niese to a 5-0 lead. Left fielder Shelley Duncan aided the five-run frame by badly misreading Wright's and Davis' shots, both of which appeared playable. The four consecutive doubles matched a franchise record, achieved on July 21, 1991 against the Dodgers by Mark Carreon, Charlie O'Brien and Dwight Gooden against Bobby Ojeda, and then Keith Miller against Mike Hartley.

Pagan had three hits and three RBIs.

Wright, who entered the day leading the National League in RBIs, drove in two runs to increase his total to 52. He has driven in a run in six straight games and is hitting .341 with 18 RBIs in his last 15 games.

"You remember we went through that stretch where there were a lot of strikeouts?" Manuel said. "That began to play on him a little bit to where, 'I don't want to get to two strikes.' Whereas now, it's a feeling of comfort or confidence, even with two strikes. That's quite a maturation process or a turnaround from what we saw earlier in the year."

Said Wright: "You're not hearing anything about the strikeouts from me at all. If I'm driving the ball, and driving in runs and scoring runs, that's fine with me. You start seeing the ball well, and you go up there and have that confidence. A lot of hitting is just confidence and going up there and feeling good about yourself. You get a couple of hits with runners in scoring position and all of a sudden you're expecting to drive runs in."

The Mets have registered at least five runs in an inning in three straight games for the first time since Aug. 3-5, 2004.

"This is kind of what we anticipated and expected," Manuel said about the offensive output. "We expected to have some speed with power, and some guys that can do the little things. But our biggest emphasis was on pitching and defense. We've done that pretty well. You know, the offense comes and goes. If we can stay hot with the bats, then we really will be a really, really good team. But I don't anticipate any team staying that hot."

After beginning the trip with an 8-18 road record, the Mets have now swept Baltimore in a three-game series and are aiming to complete that same feat Thursday in Cleveland when unbeaten knuckleballer R.A. Dickey opposes Cleveland right-hander Jake Westbrook.

"We were just talking about that," Bay said about the conversation in the clubhouse in the few minutes after the latest road victory. "We're close -- not really close, but close -- to doubling our road win total, which I guess is sad but true."

Niese -- coming off a one-hit shutout of the San Diego Padres and pitching before several dozen family and friends in his native Ohio -- surrendered a two-run homer to Duncan in the fourth inning. Niese ultimately deferred to rookie Jenrry Mejia for the eighth inning after 104 total pitches and the Mets holding on to an 8-3 lead.

As Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg did Sunday, Niese indicated he had difficulty with the mound in Cleveland. He summoned the grounds crew to try to repair it at one point.

"It wasn't really big. It was just deep," Niese said about a hole where he needed to land during his delivery. "You have to plant your leg in that spot in order not to roll it or make it slide. It was just something that I was fighting through, and then they fixed it and made it better. But the clay kind of breaks up easy. I was slipping on a few of the pitches. You want to stay as balanced as you can. Your mechanics, if you're off-balance, the ball doesn't go where you want to."

Mejia and Elmer Dessens combined to walk the first three batters of the eighth after Niese departed, but the Indians came away with only one run in that frame.

As for still being in second place, it was noted to Manuel that maybe there's less pressure going into the weekend series with the Yankees if the Mets are still a half-game behind Atlanta.

"No," Manuel said. "I'd like to be in first place."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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