NEW YORK -- On May 21, the Mets were 20-23 after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Yankees, and Jose Reyes dropped his batting average to .211 and his on-base percentage to .258 after going 0-for-4.

On Saturday, the Mets lost to the Yankees for the second time in five games this season, 5-3, but Reyes went 2-for-4 with two home runs in the loss, showing how far he and his team have come since the season's first meeting with their crosstown rivals.

The loss was the Mets' first in nine games and the sixth in their past 25; look no further than the leadoff spot in the batting order for a major reason why.

"The first month and a half was kind of tough for me," Reyes said. "I had to find how I used to play."

Reyes used to leg out triples, steal bases at will and flash some sneaky power before a right hamstring injury sidelined him for 126 games last season and a thyroid imbalance kept him out of Spring Training and the first four games this year.

Over the past 25 games, Reyes has become that player once again.

In that span, the 27-year-old shortstop is hitting .377, getting on base at a .421 clip and slugging .632, a number far more suitable for a cleanup hitter than a leadoff man.

The home runs Reyes hit in his first two at-bats against Phil Hughes on Saturday gave him five over the streak -- his only five of the season -- to go with eight stolen bases.

"He's a dynamic player," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He has a tremendous amount of energy -- he's very charismatic in his style of play and exciting. It's good to see him use his legs."

The importance of Reyes as the catalyst of the Mets' offense is stated by his teammates over and over again in the clubhouse, and it is not lost on Reyes.

"I know when I get going, everybody gets going," Reyes said.

Though Reyes was searching for his rhythm at the plate for for the first 43 games of the season, Manuel has been impressed with his leadoff hitter's consistency at shortstop, even when he was struggling to get a hit or draw a walk.

In the past, Reyes would take at-bats with him into the field, something that he has put behind him as part of his maturation process, according to Manuel.

Reyes' two homers into the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium on Saturday weren't enough to power the Mets to yet another victory, but his hot streak has taken a lot of pressure off his teammates and ignited an offense that suddenly looks potent enough to contend for the National League East crown.

"We just didn't come up with any big hits. ... Jose, he did," Mets first baseman Ike Davis said. "We actually didn't give him anything today. He did it all for us."