It was just one game, just the fourth game of the season. But for the Mets, maybe as much as any team in baseball, it was a crucial performance.
Maybe it is forgotten a day later, but the Mets beat the Phillies, 7-1, at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday and far more than the score or the standings, it mattered in the Mets clubhouse.
"I think that's what we need to do," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "This lineup, I think we can play with anybody. I've said that all along and I think that we showed that so far. We've played two very good clubs. We're not done here. But the guys are fired up, they're playing hard. Everybody wants to be a piece of it, which I think is really going to make a difference as we go in the season."
The days of claiming to be the team to beat were gone as the Mets approached this game with a new manager, a revamped front office and a roster that has been turned over almost completely from the days when the Mets and Phillies battled with bulletin-board material.
But beyond the changing faces, the lack of a rivalry is because there was little debate over just who holds the lofty expectations. While the Mets entered this season bent on restoring their pride, the Phillies come with a crown already seemingly placed on the heads of their heralded starting rotation.
So a win this early, if just a faded memory in a long season, means something today to the Mets. Jose Reyes was the only one to mention a team to beat -- and admitted it was the Phillies. It still is, as this was the Phillies' first loss of the season, but it still proved to be another step in erasing some of the embarrassing stumbles of recent years for the Mets.
"It means a lot," Reyes said. "It's early, but it means a lot. Let everybody know that we can play with any team. We just try to take it one game at a time. We win this kind of game now, everybody knows we can play with anybody."
The Mets didn't just beat the Phillies on this first night of a three-game series, they beat up Cole Hamels, one of the quartet of talented arms that have had experts trying to place the Phillies rotation in a historical perspective. The Mets knocked him out after just 2 2/3 innings, scoring six runs in the third inning.
"It's a great beginning," Angel Pagan said. "But it's a long season. We have to think in the long run. We have to play hard every day. Hopefully we can be there in October. That's what we're looking for."
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