For now, though, with their season not yet one-sixth gone, their 1-0 victory Wednesday will suffice quite nicely. It pushed all the right buttons.
The Mets' accomplishments were many, so too their rewards. They handled the Phillies behind the exquisite work of Johan Santana. They exploited the shortcomings of a team that must be regarded as their superior. If three successive victories, a modest achievement for a team aiming high, constitute a winning streak, than they created their longest streak of the season while ending the Phillies' winning streak at three. And they put their winning percentage precisely at the point of mediocrity, .500, for the first time since their 12th game.
Not all of those are baby steps.
"Very rewarding for us," manager Jerry Manuel said. "Just winning, but the manner, too."
Games that carry the 1-0 label are, of course, no closer than other decided by one run. But they seem to be. This one was as tight as Rickey Henderson's hamstrings. The teams that began Wednesday with the second- and fifth-highest on-base percentages in the National League put 13 runners on base, produced a game without an RBI or an earned run and went hitless in 10 at-bats, seven by the Phillies, with runners in scoring position. Five runners reached third base.
Given Santana's splendid pitching in his first five starts, the 0-3-3 totals the Phillies amassed were surprising only because they had committed merely five errors in their first 24 games. Santana was brilliant, pitching seven innings, allowing two hits and three walks -- two to opposing starter Chan Ho Park -- and striking out 10. The starter in five of the six shutouts the Mets have pitched in their past 64 games, Santana gained his fourth victory in five decisions this season. Two have been by 1-0 scores.
"With Johan, one run gives you a real good shot at winning," David Wright said. "He's been just dominant. You run out of good things to say."
This might work: He was Tom Seaver-esque.
Santana threw 101 pitches, 73 for strikes. He pushed the radar gun to 95 mph in the first inning. Even if the gun is generous, 95 was higher than any reading he had seven days earlier against the Marlins in the final game of the preceding homestand.
The Mets took full advantage of the third of the Phillies' three errors in the seventh after Santana had retired three straight batters with a runner on second; Raul Ibanez had led off with a double. Carlos Delgado walked, leading off against left-hander Scott Eyre (0-1), who started the inning. But the Phils reliever retired Wright and Daniel Murphy on fly balls before right-hander Chad Durbin was summoned to face Fernando Tatis, pinch-hitting.
Tatis hit a soft ground ball that third baseman Pedro Feliz had to charge.
"Did you see how hard I hit that?" Tatis said.
Feliz made an ill-conceived and wide throw that Ryan Howard had no chance to handle. The ball bounced to the base of the stands behind Howard as Delgado rounded third. Right fielder Jayson Werth retrieved the ball and, with a chance to throw out Delgado at the plate, momentarily held it. Even then, Delgado barely beat the throw.
"Any type of flinch in a game like this can decide it," Manuel said. "They happened to flinch on that play."
"Speed kills," Delgado said, presumably speaking of his 90-yard run that included deceleration at second base.
And even though Santana would be removed for a pinch-hitter two batters later, the Mets said they had a sense of confidence.
"I had a feeling at that point," Santana said, "that one run would be enough to win."
It turned out to be because Pedro Feliciano, pitching because J.J. Putz -- five innings in five days -- was unavailable, produced a relatively quiet eighth, striking out Howard with Shane Victorino on third for the third out, and because Francisco Rodriguez (eighth save) pitched a silent ninth.
The Mets had promising scoring chances in the fifth and sixth innings. Delgado was hit by Park, leading off the fifth, but he was eliminated in a 5-4-3 double play before Murphy produced their first hit, a double to right-center. With two out in the sixth, Jose Reyes reached on an error by Park and advanced to third on his seventh stolen base and a throwing error by Carlos Ruiz. Alex Cora walked, but Carlos Beltran, who had hit safely in 16 consecutive games, flied out to left. His hitting streak ended in the eighth.
Then Rodriguez bore through Werth, Ibanez and punch-hitter Matt Stairs, and Citi Field imagined September.
"It felt like a 1-0 game," K-Rod said.
To the Phillies, too. When it was over, they had won nothing.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.