Playoff push underway at Shea

From a corner locker before Tuesday's game, one Met was singing the praises of "home, sweet home."

And by the time the night was over, all of the Mets were enjoying the beginning of their abbreviated stay at Shea Stadium, a three-game oasis in the middle of a stretch that sees New York play 17 of 20 games on the road.

But what set Tuesday's contest apart from, say, last week's 14-run barrages in Arizona and the weekend by the bay in San Francisco, happened to be the atmosphere.

Perhaps for the first time since 2000, Shea Stadium was alive with energy – playoff energy, the energy of meaningful-almost-September games – even though it took almost eight innings to get there.

Ramon Castro's towering three-run homer off Ugueth Urbina blasted the Mets back from behind on Tuesday, giving New York all the ammunition they'd need to overtake a sloppy Philadelphia effort with a 6-4 victory.

"Right now, every game is a must-win situation and we feel that. This was a game we know we had to have," Castro said.

Perhaps it's hard to believe because of the malaise that has plagued the organization since that World Series season in 2000. Or maybe it's because, for all the veteran star firepower the 2005 Mets hold, they're not much better than a .500 team (Tuesday's win improved the club to 69-62, seven games over .500).

No matter. In an evenly-matched NL Wild Card race (and for that matter, NL East division), it could be enough to sneak into the postseason. Tuesday's decision dropped the Phillies into a tie with Florida for the Wild Card, with the Astros and Mets hovering just ½ game back.

And on a night when all the stars seemed crossed – Steve Trachsel grumbled in the bullpen as Jae Seo got tagged for four runs in five innings; a noticeably skinnier Mike Cameron looked on from the dugout as Carlos Beltran healthily patrolled center field; Mike Piazza grinned-and-beared the fact he might miss weeks more than anticipated – the Mets still prevailed.

"We never thought for a second we were going to lose," David Wright said. "It just seemed like something big was going to happen."

"Regardless of who's here or not, it's going to take all of us to get this done," Cliff Floyd said. "And this was a big one."

And while it was an enjoyable night for Castro, the understudy who has performed so well in Piazza's absence – "I'm not Mike Piazza," Castro reminded, as if there needed to be a reminder – it was perhaps the most favorable night for Beltran.

In the middle of an underwhelming, pockmarked season, Beltran has earned refuge from boos at home since deciding to play through a fractured facial bone, but the cheers haven't yet come consistently.

Maybe Tuesday's performance, featuring three hits, a home run and an outfield assist that got Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tossed from the game, could be the precursor to finally fulfilling those $119 million dreams.

After all, as Beltran proved last October with Houston , it really matters not what a player does in the first 80 to 95 percent of the season – it's how you finish that is ultimately best remembered.

"Look at where we are," Beltran said, "and I feel like I have done nothing for this ball club. Hopefully, from now on I can be the player I know I can be."

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