ST. LOUIS - After a week riddled with silly controversy, ill-timed comments and sloppy play by virtually every player on the roster, the Mets emerged with a soul-cleansing victory Thursday, beating the Cardinals, 5-2, to end a season-high six-game losing streak.
Daniel Murphy tied a season high with four hits and lefthander Jonathon Niese delivered perhaps his best start of the season as the Mets avoided taking a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.
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With Matt Harvey set to take the mound Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Mets also positioned themselves to begin a winning streak.
"They had a great frame of mind after what's happened the last week," manager Terry Collins said. "They came in ready to play."
Murphy finished 4-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. He has roared to life, hitting .529 (11-for-21) with five doubles in his last five games, pulling himself out of a slump.
"Blessings come when they come," Murphy said. "Today, they came."
Niese (3-4) experienced a similar revival. Experiencing mechanical issues that made a mess of his delivery, he was pounded for 15 runs in 81/3 innings in his previous two outings. But he increased his workload in his bullpen session between starts, turning his focus toward rediscovering the proper arm slot.
The result was a bump in his velocity and the return of his cutter and two-seamer, allowing him to give the Mets a much-needed quality start. With that, the Mets finally closed the door on a stretch that included a mini-drama ignited by questionable behavior by Jordany Valdespin and made worse by Collins' comments about fans.
"It's a step in the right direction," Niese said. "We had a rough go of it for a while."
Niese allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Cardinals, his longest outing of the season. "Every pitch felt good today," said Niese, who won for the first time since April 12.
Bobby Parnell shut the door in the ninth for his fourth save of the season and first since May 1.
The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (5-3) took the loss, allowing four runs in six innings. He left the game trailing 4-1, thanks mostly to the efforts of Murphy.
The second baseman had watched his average plummet, mirroring a team-wide offensive slide. On April 26, Murphy was hitting .329. On May 11, that average had dropped 71 points to .258. During a 13-game stretch, Murphy went 6-for-50 (.120), walked once and knocked in one run.
When the Mets signed outfielder Rick Ankiel on Monday, essentially taking Valdespin's job as a platoon outfielder, Collins floated the possibility of using Valdespin at second base to spell the slumping Murphy.
But when it came time to fill out the lineup card for Thursday's series finale, a game in which Collins wanted to start Valdespin, he couldn't take Murphy's hot bat out of the lineup. So he left Murphy at second base and shifted Valdespin to rightfield.
In the Mets' two-run third inning, Murphy hammered an RBI double and scored on David Wright's single. In the sixth, Murphy lined another rally-starting double that disappeared through a crack in the rightfield wall, leading to another two-run inning.
"When he gets it going, he can be very dangerous," Collins said. "Right now, when we can start getting him on ahead of David, we're going to start scoring some runs."