Bad Days Gone?

NEW YORK -- Given their recent history, it's become so easy to bury the Mets, to count them out of late, pressurized situations. <P> But this Mets club seems to have a different personality than their frustrating, underachieving predecessors. By winning their last two games in dramatic, late fashion, the Mets are hinting that those struggling seasons could just be a bad memory.

Still riding high after stealing a victory out of Roger Clemens' back pocket and defeating the Houston Astros in 13 innings Sunday, the Mets carried their late heroics to Shea Stadium on Tuesday, victimizing closer Jason Isringhausen for a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said before the game that he thought St. Louis could be catching the Mets at the wrong time. That may have been so, but it could be that the Cardinals, and the rest of the National League, are actually catching the Mets in the wrong year.

"Last year is over," said Cliff Floyd, who accentuated his 2004 Shea Stadium debut with a two-run homer and the game-winning hit off Isringhausen in the ninth.

"We know the difference and we see the difference. We pretty much know we're still in every game."

That, despite never actually holding a lead in the contest at any time until the final run crossed the plate. St. Louis jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Tom Glavine before Jason "What's His Face" Phillips brought the Mets back within two, reaching Cardinals starter Matt Morris for a solo home run off the left-field foul pole.

Phillips later told Morris that the pitch was the same one he'd belted off of Houston's Brandon Backe in the 13th inning Sunday, prompting the Cardinals hurler to lament, "I guess I should have watched that game."

If Morris and the Redbirds had tuned in, they'd have seen a Mets team that has a vastly different, never-say-die quality to it.

Isringhausen had failed in just one of his eight save opportunities this season, but Mike Cameron got a rally started by coaxing a walk from the former Met to start the ninth.

Joe McEwing sacrificed Cameron to second, and Isringhausen pitched around pinch-hitter Karim Garcia to set up a possible double play. Eric Valent accounted for the second out of the inning, whiffing against the Cardinals closer, but Kaz Matsui shattered his bat and plopped a 94-foot single into shallow right field, plating Cameron with the tying run.

That set the stage for Floyd, who got around on a cut fastball and lofted it to short right, setting off a celebration at first base – a mess of bodies, bouncing up and down on the infield dirt – that has become surprisingly common for the Mets this season.

"It's a great feeling," said Floyd, who is 7-for-24 (.304) with two homers and eight RBI since coming off the disabled list. "It's awesome."

.500 OR BUST: With a victory tonight, the Mets would improve to 20-20. New York, which trails the division-leading Marlins by 2-1/2 games entering Wednesday's action, hasn't been at the .500 plateau since April 16.

CELEBRATING MIKE: The Mets have selected June 18 to honor Mike Piazza for setting the mark as baseball's all-time leader for home runs by a catcher. Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra and Gary Carter have all been tabbed to be on hand.

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