Mets muscle way to rubber-match victory
Niese, bullpen combine to shut down Twins in series finale
NEW YORK -- With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Ike Davis launched a ball over the bullpen and onto the "Shea Bridge" pedestrian walkway in right field, and just like that, the Mets had as many home runs Sunday as they had hits against the Twins on Saturday.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Davis followed up David Wright's two-run homer to left with that blast, marking the second time this season the Mets have hit back-to-back home runs, and the home team went on to beat the Twins, 6-0, in the rubber match.
After being blanked by Carl Pavano the previous day, Jeff Francoeur opened the scoring with a two-run shot in the fourth inning.
"[Davis] crushed that one, he's got stupid pop," Francoeur said. "I said to David, 'Mine went farther.' David said, 'Mine went out faster.' Then Ike his that one, and we both shut up."
Wright's and Davis' home runs were sandwiched between a double by Jesus Feliciano, who recorded three hits in a game for the second time in four starts of filling in for Angel Pagan, and a triple by Jason Bay in a four-run frame, during which the Mets chased Twins starter Scott Baker after 4 1/3 innings.
Jonathon Niese tossed six-plus scoreless innings before handing the game over to the bullpen, which preserved the Mets' 11th shutout win of the season, the most in the Majors.
Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano and Bobby Parnell all pitched scoreless innings a day after the bullpen snapped its streak of 23 1/3 innings without allowing a run.
"They've done a good job. With what we have now, the type of rotation that we have now, it gives us a chance to pitch those guys on a regular basis, but also in between give them a chance to rest," manager Jerry Manuel said. "Those guys throw strikes. You've got strike-throwers, and guys who are somewhat rested at the right times."
Niese's recent play has provided a lift, especially with ace Johan Santana mired in one of the worst stretches of his career. The 23-year-old has now won four of his five starts since coming off the disabled list, with the only blemish a no-decision after a rain delay clearly affected his performance in a game against Detroit earlier in the week.
"With the success, that brings more confidence if he feels he can repeat and pitch at this level, then hopefully we'll compete in championship fashion," Manuel said.
The Mets wrapped up Interleague Play with a 13-5 record, a franchise record for most Interleague victories in a single season, and a 5-1 series record.
"Sweeps are a good thing, but from here on out, we're just trying to win series," Davis said.
The Mets started their last road trip by sweeping the Orioles and the Indians, which were their first road-series wins of the season.
The team feels it has proved itself by playing the Yankees tough in Yankee Stadium and taking two of three from the Tigers and Twins at home, perhaps a more impressive feat than sweeping two teams sitting at the bottom of their respective divisions.
"When we went to Cleveland and Baltimore, people probably said, 'They're not that good,'" Francoeur said. "But I think you have to say we're a good team right now."
Buzzwords like "playoffs," "championship" and "Wild Card" filled the clubhouse after the game, showing that the team's recent play has clearly elevated what is acceptable to talk about openly.
But before the Mets can accomplish any of those goals, they will have to take care of business in an increasingly competitive National League East.
Sunday's win coupled with a loss by Atlanta put the Mets a half-game out of first place as they head to San Juan to take on the Marlins and then Washington for a four-game series with the Nationals.
"We all think that every game is important, just because Atlanta is playing so well," Niese said. "Even for the Wild Card, we need to win every game we can."
Kyle Maistri is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.