Positive Mets Are Flying High

NEW YORK -- When the Mets were at their lowest point last season, several players admitted that they were coming to Shea Stadium just waiting to see how the team would lose that night. <P> With New York searching for a fifth straight victory Friday, that mood has been almost completely reversed. These Mets are strutting in high spirits and playing well enough to back it up, reporting to Flushing with the positive vibe that they have a chance to win on any given night.

"It's a good room," said catcher Jason Phillips. "We've got a better environment in here. We have fun on the road together away from the field, and I think that translates to confidence."

Suddenly, almost anything short of a miraculous Jose Reyes return seems possible for the Mets, who ran off three straight wins against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park earlier this week before returning home to meet the division-leading Florida Marlins for an important four-game series.

The Mets entered Friday's action just 2.5 games out of first place in the NL East and, at 27-26, only two games back in the loss column.

More importantly, they've made a habit of coming back late in games to win (both of the final two games in Philadelphia were 10-inning, come-from-behind victories for New York), a trend that first baseman Mike Piazza says has helped to breed confidence among a Mets team that almost nobody picked to seriously contend before the season began.

"It does a lot," Piazza said. "When you know you've done it once, you can do it again. It helps down the line. You don't really panic, you just get that same feeling and you just stay positive."

ERICKSON TAKES THE HILL: RHP Scott Erickson (hamstring) will make a start tonight at Durham, N.C., as he continues his rehabilitation toward a Major League return.

Should Erickson's start go well, Mets manager Art Howe said he had no immediate thoughts on what he'd do to accommodate Erickson in New York's rotation, although Saturday's starter Matt Ginter would appear to be the likeliest candidate to be demoted after Jae Seo pitched well Thursday.

VANCE GETS A START: Vance Wilson will probably catch on Saturday, according to manager Art Howe. Wilson, who had a pair of pinch-hits -- including a two-run homer -- in the last two games at Philadelphia, has played sparingly in recent weeks since Jason Phillips' bat has heated up and Mike Piazza has continued to play first base.

"It's been frustrating for me," Wilson said. "I guess I'm just one of those guys that, no matter what I do, I'm never really going to get my chance to show what I can do."


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