The schedulemakers unwittingly had done New York a favor, requiring it to appear in the home of the World Series champions. Indeed, after the Mets had disposed of the Phillies in a methodical manner in their 22nd game, they were quite pleased, fulfilled and grateful. "Nice to be here" was their reaction after their 7-4 victory had been secured. As much as the Mets needed clean innings, timely hits and victories when they arrived, they needed the Phillies more.
Funny how that works. Exposure to the very team that has denied them in each of the past two Septembers was what the Mets needed to get past their April. Philadelphia, of all teams, served as a vaccine. New York played with energy, purpose and resolve and held off the team it couldn't hold off the past two seasons.
The Mets left footprints in the basepaths of Citizens Bank Park and all over Chan Ho Park, as well, scoring in the first three innings, taking a five-run lead, resisting when the Phillies flexed their resilience and winning for the fourth time in 10 road games.
"A division win on the road," David Wright said.
But a victory against the Mariners or the Olmedo Saenz Senior Softball Sisters would have served them well. So Wright revised his thinking.
"It's a win, most importantly," Wright said. "Hopefully it leads to another one."
It was a victory that included few of the foibles that had led New York to a 9-12 record and a fourth-place standing in the National League East by Wednesday night and some of what manager Jerry Manuel had asked to see -- situational hitting, measured swings and movement on the bases. It was fueled by a two-run home run by Daniel Murphy in the first inning, three sacrifice flies, a run-scoring single by Wright and -- drum roll, please -- an honest-to-goodness hit by winning pitcher Mike Pelfrey.
Not only did Pelfrey gain his third victory and remain unbeaten, he provided a long sacrifice fly in the second inning that momentarily appeared to have home run potential.
"The longest out of the game," is how John Maine characterized it, begrudgingly giving his friend and primary competition credit.
The Mets' clubhouse could belly laugh after this one. It had been a while.
Maine pointed out, "If you can't hit it out here, you can't hit it out anywhere. The deepest part of this place is the shallowest anywhere else."
And Pelfrey laughed, too.
He allowed three runs, all in the third frame, in 5 1/3 innings, surrendering seven hits and four walks. He struck out no one, running his record to 3-0, reducing his ERA to a figure that still would prompt ridicule if Maine's weren't 5.40.
"We're getting them down," Pelfrey said.
But room for improvement is in abundance.
"Better rhythm, better stuff," Manuel said of Pelfrey. "The big fella was pretty good."
The big fella thought he could have been better.
"My command wasn't where I wanted it to be," Pelfrey said.
But he certainly will accept the victory, the sacrifice fly and the run-scoring single he contributed in the fifth. The RBIs were the first two of his career.
Pelfrey, Jose Reyes and Omir Santos provided the sacrifice flies, Carlos Beltran scoring -- he slid, he slid -- on Santos'. Beltran doubled to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.
Pelfrey was replaced by Pedro Feliciano, who allowed one run, a home run by Chase Utley, in 1 2/3 innings. J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez pitched the eighth and ninth innings, with K-Rod earning his fifth save and getting his first taste of the Mets-Phillies rivalry -- or at least the Phillies fans and the creative insults.
"They're pretty good," Rodriguez said. "And if you take it the right way, it's fun."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.