PHILADELPHIA - Since the week leading up to the trade deadline, the Mets have transformed themselves into one of the most potent offenses in baseball.
And in a 9-4 victory over the Phillies Wednesday night, the Mets again enjoyed the luxury of that newfound explosiveness.
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Bartolo Colon tossed seven shutout innings, bouncing back from getting roughed up in his previous outing. Michael Cuddyer continued his resurgence with three RBIs, including a mammoth homer into the upper deck in leftfield at Citizens Bank Park.
But in the eighth, when the most vulnerable part of the bullpen let a comfortable 6-0 lead turn into a tenuous 6-4 advantage, the Mets responded with a three-run ninth to ensure their sixth straight victory.
"In my opinion, there's not a guy who's an easy out," manager Terry Collins said after watching the Mets push their lead over the Nationals to 6 1/2 games. "They can all hit a homer, they can all be dangerous, and it's nice to be able to have that."
Entering play, no team in baseball had hit more doubles and homers than the Mets since July 25, the day that the acquisitions of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe began a wave of deals that changed the complexion of the team. In that span, the Mets have scored the second most runs in baseball.
They have leveraged that firepower into an unmistakable habit of any playoff team -- beating up on inferior opponents. "If you want to make the playoffs, you've got to take care of business with the teams that you feel like you should beat," said catcher Anthony Recker, who helped Colon to his first scoreless outing since July 1.
The Mets put themselves on pace for 90 wins -- a standard that last season earned general manager Sandy Alderson a round of ridicule for trying to meet. Now, it's within reach, as is the Mets' first playoff appearance since 2006.
Perhaps the only blip during the Mets' scorching stretch has been a bullpen that has shown some holes. On Wednesday night, lefty Eric O'Flaherty was charged for three runs in a tense eighth. Acquired from the A's for his track record against lefties, O'Flaherty has allowed 10 runs in 5 2/3 innings with the Mets. He allowed the three lefties he faced Wednesday night to reach base.
"No question about it, we've got to get it shored up," Collins said of the Mets' need for a dependable lefty specialist.
The Mets covered for O'Flaherty's shaky work. With the help of an error by shortstop Freddy Galvis, the Mets rallied behind a double by Curtis Granderson and a triple by Yoenis Cespedes to piece together a three-run inning that quickly restored order.
Cuddyer finished 3-for-5, continuing his resurgence. Looked upon to help carry a struggling offense, his production had sagged when a knee injury sent him to the disabled list. But with the Mets' improved depth, he returned as a part-time player when came off the disabled list on Aug. 11. But since then, Cuddyer is hitting .359 with two homers and seven RBIs. His homer gave the Mets 40 as a team for August, tying the club record set in June 2006. Said Cuddyer: "The less pressure you put on yourself the more success you're going to have."