Only Beltran can stop Beltran

Only Beltran can stop Beltran

NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran has found it.

He's locked in, he's in the zone and he's stumbled into his own little slice of baseball nirvana. Call it what you will, but results are telling, and Beltran is piling those up with frightening rapidity.

Funny that Beltran doesn't feel any different. His body hasn't changed, nor has his mind, and the baseball -- that little sphere that's been known to reach beach-ball proportions during hot streaks -- hasn't grown much at all.

"It's not really big," Beltran laughed. "It's the same ball."

The same ball, which he's hitting much farther and much more often. Beltran accounted for all of his team's offense through eight innings of Tuesday's 7-6 thriller against the Padres, knocking in two runs with a homer, two more with a double and tying the game in the eighth inning with a single.

That makes it six home runs and 18 RBIs for Beltran since returning from the disabled list just three weeks ago. He's hitting .351 in August after posting no mark higher than .238 since April, and he's launched nine home runs in his past 14 starts after needing 15 previous starts just to hit two. Last week, he earned National League Player of the Week honors after knocking in 10 runs on only nine hits.

Suffice it to say, things have changed.

"He's a guy that can put a team on his back and carry the team," said Marlon Anderson, another one of Tuesday's clutch performers. "It makes baseball real fun."

Beltran called it comfort, not fun, though he's likely feeling both. Especially after an early summer that saw him sit with a bruised right knee, a sore left quad, and, more recently, a strained left oblique. He hasn't been fully healthy since April -- when he hit .356 -- and, as he found, the baseball doesn't often grow for players with nagging injuries.

Now, that ball is growing, yet Beltran isn't trying to make up for lost time. That's a good thing. His eyes widen when he talks about the comforts of hitting the opposite way -- which he did while launching his homer on Tuesday -- and it's no secret that Beltran's best successes come when he's hitting to the opposite-field gap.

That's a gap that -- perhaps like the ball -- has become bigger with each passing day.

"When he hits the ball to all fields like that, it's an excellent sign," said manager Willie Randolph. "He's that kind of hitter when he's not trying to do too much."

Not too much has been more than enough lately, and as Beltran has gone, so too have the Mets. When the center fielder was hot in April, the Mets were equally as hot. When he was cold in June and July, so, too, was his team.

Now, both are heating up at the same time. And if the ball isn't growing yet, that's about the only thing that hasn't gone right -- after two months when seemingly everything went wrong.

"Good things are happening," Beltran said with a grin. "It's about time."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.