Even-Up Mets Looking For More

When the Mets opened their week against the Indians and Tigers, they didn't know that Jose Reyes would be back as a sparkplug, nor could they have predicted that Richard Hidalgo would be flexing some muscle as a stabilizing influence. <P> All the Mets knew was that they'd need five wins to make it back to the .500 mark. Lo and behold, mission accomplished, and it's a fresh start for the Mets as they welcome Ken Griffey Jr. and the Reds to Shea Stadium for a three-game set starting Tuesday.

After weeks of sputtering along like some time-warped manifestation of the old 1960s Dodgers offenses, the Mets' lineup may finally have some juice.

Reyes returned Saturday and paid immediate dividends, tripling and scoring two runs despite still hobbling along with his new running style, and Hidalgo made his introduction to Mets fans in a big way, belting a two-run homer to help boost the Mets to a 6-1 win Sunday and a series sweep of Detroit.

This is the most stacked lineup that manager Art Howe has ever had in his tenure with the Mets, and it's paying dividends. It could even be helping his job security – it was no great secret that the Mets weren't enamored with Howe's in-game strategy and the mediocre results.

Even so, pitching has never been the problem for the Mets, who have rode the resurgence of Tom Glavine and the consistency of the rest of the staff – not to mention the tutelage of pitching coach Rick Peterson, who looks more like a genius every day – to post the best ERA in the majors.

But with the offense clicking on all cylinders, the Mets would be able to walk away from more outings like Sunday's with a victory.

Steve Trachsel admittedly didn't have his best stuff, offering himself a 'C+' grading for an outing in which he walked five through six innings. In the Mets' recent history, that would have been a recipe for a loss, but the Mets were able to provide Trachsel with enough wriggle room so that he could achieve his seventh win of the season.

As Mike Piazza said after Sunday's win, there's no secret to winning baseball – good pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.

The Mets have had their share of all three in recent weeks (even the glove-work has been better – New York made just one error in the Cleveland series, a step in the right direction), and find themselves very much in the thick of the NL East pennant race once more.

The Mets trailed the first-place Phillies and Marlins by 2-1/2 games when newspapers hit doorsteps on Monday morning, but face five contending clubs in a row leading into the All-Star Break: Cincinnati for a home-and-road series, the Yankees for the same and road series in Philadelphia and Florida.

NOTES: Howe said he will not shuffle his pitching rotation for the Subway Series against the Yankees, which opens Friday in the Bronx. That means Matt Ginter will start in the Sunday night ESPN game. … RHP Orber Moreno (shoulder) will pitch in a Gulf Coast League game Monday and could be activated as early as Wednesday, according to reports.

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