NEW YORK -- Over and over this week, Mets manager Terry Collins noted how the Subway Series seems to bring the best out of his club.
More accurately, it seems to bring out the unknown. A team that hardly resembled the Mets bludgeoned the Yankees, 12-7, for the second straight day on Monday, relying again on a formula -- inadequate starting pitching and otherworldly hitting -- entirely foreign to them.
"We're playing good baseball our last two nights here," was the simplest way second baseman Daniel Murphy could describe it.
For the second straight night, Curtis Granderson homered in his old ballpark, this time on a line drive that assuredly would not have left Citi Field. His three-run shot in the first inning gave the Mets a quick 4-0 lead over Yankees starter Vidal Nuno, who gave up seven total runs (five earned) and could not escape the fourth.
"I'm not sure what it is," Granderson said of his success at Yankee Stadium. "You try to get a pitch to hit and elevate and drive, and this ballpark -- unlike some other ballparks -- a lot of balls end up getting out of here."
By the time Murphy hit his own three-run homer off Alfredo Aceves in the fifth, the Mets had their sixth consecutive win over the Yankees mostly in hand. The only issue was that their starting pitcher, Zack Wheeler, was laboring nearly as much as Nuno. Walking a career-high six batters, Wheeler served up a two-run homer to Brian McCann in the first inning and scattered a trio of RBI singles by Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano.
Because the Mets held such a commanding lead by the middle innings, Collins gave Wheeler plenty of rope to record the 15 outs necessary for a win. But Soriano's single with one out in the fifth ended Wheeler's night at 118 pitches.
"I thought we would see if he could go out there and do it," Collins said of bringing Wheeler back for the fifth. "He just didn't have any consistent release point -- no feel for where the ball was going, and he struggled."
That was the only disappointment on an otherwise banner night for the Mets, who climbed back to .500 in entirely alien fashion. Relying for most of April on a standout rotation, noteworthy defense and an on-again, off-again bullpen, the Mets struggled to hit with consistency even when they were winning. In more than half of their April victories, they scored four or fewer runs.
Things had grown so sour in the batter's box that the Mets entered this week's Subway Series with a total of 19 runs in their previous seven games. Then they scored 21 in two nights at Yankee Stadium, with another two dates against the Bombers scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Citi Field.
"It's huge," said designated hitter Eric Young Jr., who scored three runs in the victory. "It's definitely good to see us swinging better for a while as a team. And it's still going to get better."
Part of the Mets' success, they admit, is the stadium itself -- Granderson hit 84 home runs in the Bronx from 2011-12, and he clearly fancies the short porch in right. Part of it is that the middle of their lineup -- Murphy, David Wright and Granderson in particular -- is finally clicking. Part of it is that the Mets, for the first time in weeks, are playing with obvious confidence.
Things will eventually change for a Mets team that is not built to win this way on a regular basis. Regularly outslugging their opponents is not in their DNA; even Wright admits that. But neither are the types of consistently poor starting-pitching performances that Wheeler and Bartolo Colon gave them this week, meaning regression to the mean might not be such a bad thing for the Mets.
All they know is that they are winning, and they will take those victories any way that they come.
"I don't know how [to analyze this] except that we won," Collins said. "When you walk 10 guys, how you can say you won is pretty amazing. But we did. We got some big hits. So we'll take it and try to get some sleep and get ready for [Wednesday] night."