NEW YORK -- It was one of those crazy eighth innings on Tuesday night at Citi Field that could trend the Mets' fortunes in the right direction.

The Mets entered the inning trailing the Nationals by four runs, staring a second consecutive loss in the face. Twelve batters and 36 minutes later, the Mets led, 8-6, and that's how it ended.

The onslaught began innocently enough, on a Jason Bay single, and ended with Bay taking a bases-loaded walk that forced in the insurance run.

"That doesn't happen very much," Bay said. "I could count on both hands how many times I've been the first and last out of an inning, but starting it with a hit and later driving in a run, too, doesn't happen very often."

In between those plate appearances, there were three doubles, a perfectly executed Alex Cora bunt single, a throwing error by shortstop Ian Desmond and a long foul that appeared to be a home run over the right-field foul pole off the bat of Ike Davis, that was resolved when the umpires went to instant replay.

Throw in a pair of walks and the Mets had nine baserunners in the inning, including Chris Carter's pinch-hit double that drove in the winning run.

"We knew we weren't going to get back into it quick," Bay said. "Even if you get a baserunner or two, it's still a long shot. It's one of those innings when you're just trying to get runners on base. You can't score unless you get runners on. If you do that, then all of a sudden you're a hit or two away from making it a ballgame. That's ultimately what you're shooting for."

Just as it may have been a breakout inning for the 18-15 Mets, it might have been a breakout game for Bay, who has struggled mightily in his first six weeks in New York after signing a four-year, $66 million free-agent contract.

He was on base four of the five times he came to the plate, including three singles and the run-scoring walk. The out was probably his hardest hit ball: A long drive near the 384-foot marker in left-center that was hauled in by Nyjer Morgan to end the fifth inning.

Bay came into the game batting .248 with a homer and 14 RBIs. When it was over, he had jumped to .264 on the strength of a .263 batting average for the first 11 days of May. But Bay wouldn't say he was beginning to find it a little at the plate.

"I would like to say yes, but I can't stand here and tell you that everything is hunky dory," he said. "I've tried a lot of things, but after awhile, you just have to take a different mindset and go with what works for you. The results, per se, aren't great, but it's more the process. It's a feel thing, and I am starting to feel a lot better."

Certainly a productive Bay and David Wright in the middle of the lineup is a key to the Mets' success. Wright was also on base four of the five times he hit on Tuesday night, accruing a walk, an infield single and a pair of doubles, the second two-bagger coming just after Bay's single opened the climactic eighth inning.

Having those two guys on base eight times in one evening is going to lead to good things, said Mets manager Jerry Manuel.

"It all starts with base hits," Manuel said. "Those two guys are using the middle of the field, not trying to pull the ball and hit it out. They're both good hitters. If we can get them going, it gives us a chance to have a pretty good offensive club."

So far, Bay has hardly been the player who batted .267 with 36 homers and amassed 119 RBIs for the Red Sox last season. His lone homer for the Mets came against the Dodgers at home on April 27. Since then, he's gone 13 games and 45 at-bats without one.

Unlike Barry Zito, who explained away his struggles as trying to live up to that big $120 million contract when he signed with the Giants in 2007, Bay said the money is not the issue.

"I could understand how it might be perceived like that, but I don't feel that way," Bay said. "I'm still trying to do the same things, whether it's the beginning of the season in New York or the middle of the season in Boston. I can't discount that perception because I absolutely know how that could look. But it doesn't feel so much that way for me."

Perceptions, of course, can suddenly change -- with a string of productive at bats and a late-inning come-from-behind rally.