Bodley: Mets beast of NL East?
Reyes' return has added much-needed spark to offense
It's taken the New York Mets seven weeks to get their act together, but now they just might be the best team in National League East.
That could be a stretch, but when the Mets won two of three from the Yankees last weekend, then stunned the Phillies with two numbing shutouts, it's difficult to find a better team in the division for the moment.
That's based on how well the Mets have played against the Yankees and Phillies in winning four straight games heading into Thursday night, and five of their past six.
In case you forgot, the Yankees and Phillies were in the World Series last year -- the two defending league champions and favorites to return to the postseason. The Phillies have won the division championship each of the past three years.
I believe this Mets team is a lot better than anyone may have thought, especially when they were losing nine of 11 games in mid-May. It was during that period when Jose Reyes and Jason Bay were groping to find their way.
The Phillies suddenly don't look like the team to beat in NL East.
With Reyes, who missed most of 2009 with leg injuries and much of Spring Training with a thyroid condition, back in the leadoff spot, he's given the Mets the energy and excitement Philadelphia misses with former MVP Jimmy Rollins on the disabled list.
Reyes has been in the middle of their attack as the Mets have manufactured run after run in spacious Citi Field -- i.e. get on base, steal a base, advance a base, trot home on an infield out or sacrifice fly.
This is the threat the Mets so desperately lacked early this year and most of 2009.
In Wednesday's convincing 5-0 victory, Reyes had two hits, drove in two more runs and hit his first homer since May 7, 2009. Entering Thursday's finale with the Phillies, he had four consecutive multihit games and nine hits in his previous 14 at-bats. He's batting .392 in his past six games.
Of note, the Mets are 16-4 when Reyes scores a run.
"It's starting to come together now," Reyes said, telling reporters he feels like his old self again. "Yeah, I feel good, real good."
Added Bay: "He's a game-changer. He changes the whole dynamic of our offense. When he's going well, we look like a completely different team."
Added manager Jerry Manuel: "What you're seeing is what we envisioned all those days we didn't have him. It took some time. What we're seeing now is he's getting his timing. Hopefully, he'll keep it going for a long time."
After watching his team get shut out in back-to-back games by the Mets for the first times since July 17-18, 1998, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel bolted the clubhouse door late Wednesday night to discuss the club's lackluster performance.
The Phillies were blanked for the third time in four games. They came into the series finale having scored just three runs in their past 38 innings.
"I wanted to say something and I felt like it was time," said Manuel.
Earlier, before the series in New York, Manuel talked about how good he thought the Mets could be, that despite how poorly they were playing at the time they could never be taken lightly.
As meetings go, the Mets' turnaround can be traced to a summit in Atlanta on May 17. They'd lost four in a row to the Marlins, seven of eight overall, were in last place, and about to face the Braves.
Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, flew to Atlanta, and for 90 minutes before the game at Turner Field met with general manager Omar Minaya, assistant GM John Ricco and Manuel behind closed doors.
Wilpon's arrival immediately fueled speculation Manuel, and maybe even Minaya, would be replaced.
Instead, Wilpon said, "I came to talk baseball with them. Nothing dramatic. Sometimes it's better to speak to people in person," adding that he wanted to find answers to serious questions about his team.
Manuel said later there were no ultimatums.
"We talked about different things in the area of offense, in the area of pitching," the manager said.
During the four losses to the Marlins, which came after a loss to Washington, the Mets committed four errors. Pitching was another problem.
That date should be circled. The Mets won, 3-2. And even though they lost their next two, the turnaround was under way.
If the starting rotation, after Mike Pelfrey (6-1) and Johan Santana (4-2), has been one of the biggest concerns, two questions were answered in the 8-0 and 5-0 shutouts vs. Philadelphia.
With John Maine and Jon Niese on the disabled list and Oliver Perez relegated to the bullpen, 35-year-old kuckleballer R. A. Dickey allowed just six hits during six innings. The next night Hisanori Takahashi, a veteran from Japan's Yomiuri Giants who signed as a free agent in December, improved his record to 4-1 with six shutout innings, baffling the Phillies' potent offense by mixing changeups and curves.
Saturday in Milwaukee, Fernando Nieve is expected to get his first start after 27 relief appearances.
The Mets have the best home record (18-9) in the NL, but the worst road record (6-14) away from Citi Field.
They hit the road on Friday for three games against the Brewers, then go to San Diego, where the Padres are leading NL West.
The six games should reinforce my belief the Mets just might be the team to beat in the NL East.
Or, if their road pattern continues, they were just teasing us against two of the best teams in the Major Leagues.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.