Shea What?! Mets Pull Off Subway Stunner

These are the kind of games -- nay, the kinds of weekends -- that make almost anything seem possible. <P> Was that someone we overheard talking about the Mets' World Series chances Saturday, just minutes after Shane Spencer's dribbler put a charge into roughly 65 percent of Shea Stadium? And was someone exuberantly chatting about how the Mets' pitching rotation stacked up in a playoff set?

To be fair, this was all giddy, happy-talk from fans roaming the dingy concourses of Shea, literally wearing orange-and-blue across their sleeves. But who could blame them?

The Mets hung tough against the monolith that is the Yankees through the first two games of Subway Series II, pounding a hungover Bronx Bombers team on Friday night 11-2, then rallying back three separate times Saturday to flush Yankee leads of 3-1, 6-4 and 8-7 down the drain.

Factor in John Franco's strikeout looking of Jorge Posada with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, drawing memories of his freezing of Barry Bonds back in the '00 NLDS, and you start to see a trend of resilience and grit – never mind thrilling excitement – coming out of this promising Mets club.

That resilience is the brand that comes imbedded within serious playoff teams, and nobody – absolutely nobody – could have ever expected that the Mets would be in a position on the nation's birthday to call themselves one, or even masquerade as one.

But as the Mets rev their engines to go for their first-ever sweep of the Bombers Sunday – thus ensuring that the Yankees will acquire Randy Johnson or Bret Boone, or at least closing the Yankees career of some Stadium washroom attendant – the Mets find themselves in the position to do just that.

New York's National League club enters play Sunday trailing division-leading Philadelphia by two games, locked in a virtual tie for second place with Jack McKeon's Marlins.

Suddenly, it doesn't appear so nuts that manager Art Howe shifted his pitching rotation so that staff ace Tom Glavine will miss the Yankees.

The Mets open a make-or-break stretch of 25 games – yes, that's right, 25 – against National League East rivals when they motor down the New Jersey Turnpike for a four-game set at Philadelphia opening Monday evening, and Glavine's services will certainly be of higher importance there.

Besides, the way balls were flying out of Shea yesterday with 19 runs crossing the plate, Glavine might not have fared much better than Matt Ginter, who appears to be cracking through the ice on his rotation spot with Scott Erickson a looming presence at Triple-A Norfolk after all of one solid start against Pawtucket this week.

Sunday's matchup: Javier Vazquez (9-5, 3.42) vs. Jae Seo (4-5, 4.92).

Mets fans should remember plenty of Vazquez, the former Montreal Expos ace, who makes his first start as a Yankee against the Mets. He's 8-6 with a 3.20 ERA lifetime against the Amazin's.

Seo seems to have worked his way back into Howe's good graces after it seemed for weeks that Howe didn't believe Seo had Major League ‘stuff' – he still may not, but it worked in his last outing, a four-run, 6-1/3 inning effort against the Sean Casey-less Reds on June 29.

Look out: Richard Hidalgo and Kaz Matsui, both scorching hot.

Richard Hidalgo has homered in five of his last six games, including each of the last three, and is riding a six-game hitting streak. He's hitting .478 (11-for-23) over that stretch.

In what figures to be Matsui's personal World Series, with the year's largest Japanese media contingent on hand to send every twitch back to his homeland, Kaz has risen to the occasion to steal the show from the Yankees' Hideki. Kaz is 5-for-9 in the series against the Yankees, and scored four runs Saturday.


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