Another three weeks and visits to Atlanta, Denver, San Diego and San Francisco will determine whether the Mets have fixed themselves. But for now, following an abridged weekend series in the unofficial home of the World Series, the Mets have a certain sense: For two days, they did all they could do. And when is the last time they could say that?
They existed at the park late Sunday night with a sense of achievement and an enhanced sense of self.
"This is the way I think we can play ... not all the time, but a lot," right fielder Ryan Church said. "It'd been pretty cool if we did."
Church spoke in the afterglow of an 11-2 thrashing of the home team. The Mets thoroughly outperformed the Yankees in ever phase of the game, particularly defense, for 18 innings and emerged two victories better as well as repaired, renewed and re-focused. And maybe relieved. The difference between the Mets of Friday afternoon -- post-"incident" and pre-meeting -- was even greater than the run differential in the two games: Mets 18, Yankees 6.
"And really, that's all that matters -- where we are and how we are," Marlon Anderson said. "This weekend was about us -- us getting right. It can't matter where were are or who we're playing. This was Mets business."
And the Mets took care of it. The Yankees were essentially bystanders, or supporting cast. This was the Mets' show. They battered the Yankees in the second engagement of this intra-city, Interleague interlude.
"If we didn't get it," Church said, "[winning Saturday] would have meant nothing. You'd like to think this is the start of a run."
Though an umpire's reversed call denied them an apparent three-run home run, the Mets beat on the Yankees' primary starting pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, and his relief and won by a familiar score. The Mets have won 27 of 62 Interleague games against the Yankees, three by 11-2. And a 12-2 victory in 2000 shouldn't be overlooked.
There was nothing routine about this one, though. Held without a baserunner for the first three innings, they used the MO they had used on Saturday, breaking their silence in the fourth inning -- this time for four runs. Church hit a long home run into Reggie '77 territory in the sixth inning, and the Mets scored six times in the eighth off Wang (6-2) and Ross Ohlendorf, with Jose Reyes hitting his second home run in two days, off the reliever.
Once they got an idea of what Wang was doing, the Mets adjusted, employed the patience that manager Willie Randolph had implored them to use in Friday's meeting and produced five hits in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, despite entering the game with a .257 average in such situations.
"It's gratifying to me when my guys start swinging the bat and playing baseball well," Randolph said. "We had a couple of rough games this week, and to come in a play well against this team makes me feel good."
The beneficiary of their outburst was Oliver Perez, who earned his second straight victory, pitching into the eighth inning for the first time in nine starts this season. His 7 2/3 innings on Sunday -- and equal innings by Johan Santana on Saturday -- and Monday's off-day allow the Mets to approach their day-night doubleheader in Atlanta on Tuesday with a fresh bullpen -- no small consideration, particularly with a weekend series in the Mile High conditions of Denver looming.
"Scoring like we have the last two games," Randolph said, "has let our starters go deeper."
And the team that had made the most pitching changes in the National League through Friday made one each in its first two Interleague engagements.
Even with the denied home run, a five-batter sequence in the fourth inning changed the game.
Anderson was on first base with one out when a single by David Wright and a walk to Carlos Beltran loaded the bases. Church's ground ball to the right side was stopped by Jason Giambi, who dived to make the play. But a from-his-knees throw to second base was wide -- no error was charged -- and Anderson scored. Moises Alou's semi-checked swing sent a base hit to right field and scored Wright and Beltran.
The point of contention followed.
Carlos Delgado had seemingly hit his sixth home run and produced a 6-0 Mets lead. Third-base umpire Mike Reilly, the crew chief, belatedly gave the home run signal. But the call was changed after all four umpires met and home-plate umpire Bob Davidson said that he had seen it as foul. A television replay showed that the ball had hit the black base of the yellow foul pole. Randolph disputed the call and returned to the dugout. Coach Jerry Manuel subsequently was ejected by Davidson.
Denied three runs, the Mets scored one more time when Delgado single to right field.
Given a margin for error, Perez immediately halved it, surrendering a leadoff single to Derek Jeter, the Yankees' first hit, and the sixth home run of the season for Hideki Matsui. Perez has allowed five home runs in 48 2/3 innings, but on Sunday, he allowed just three hits and issued two walks, striking out four and putting his career record in five career starts against the Yankees at 4-1.
Church crushed his ninth home run and Reyes his fourth in the eighth, creating the third Mets run output greater than 10 runs in their 10 most recent games.
Randolph discussed the relapse the Mets suffered after successive victories of 12-1 and 12-6 over the Dodgers and Reds on May 7 and 10, and why this latest run may be more promising.
"I thought when we had those other two games, our offense was starting to click, then we slowed down again," Randolph said. "Now, it looks like we're moving again. We'll see, but it feels good right now."