Scott Hairston doesn't get to play much for the Mets and never will be confused with Jose Reyes and David Wright, considered the cornerstones of the franchise. In his own way, though, Hairston exemplifies the Mets, at least in the way they must play and think: Whoever is here is here, whoever is not is not, just go and get after it.
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Hairston started in place of Carlos Beltran Saturday afternoon, with the latter suffering from a flu-induced fever, and Hairston was just plain hot against the Phillies. He had two doubles, a home run, five runs batted in, a heads-up hustle play and a sense of resourcefulness and resolve that sent the Mets to a 11-2 win at Citi Field.
There is no promise that every game will look like this once Beltran is gone, assuming that he will be dealt before the trading deadline. This was not an intentional dress rehearsal for that era, either. Beltran developed flu-like symptoms Friday night, the Mets said. "He was pretty sick," Terry Collins said, adding that Beltran's fever spiked overnight.
So Collins started Hairston in rightfield and put him third in the lineup, mindful that Hairston had entered with a .353 career batting average and three home runs against Phillies starter Cole Hamels.
No disrespect to Hairston, but the lineup that the Mets fielded against Hamels did not look like a mismatch in favor of the Mets. That is just the sort of mindset the Mets might have to work with for much of the second half. The Mets just have to go after it in a competitive division.
"I'm a big competition guy," Collins said. "One of the things I want to make sure happens is that when our fans leave this ballpark, they want to come back and see us play. Hopefully, we're doing that.
"This is the big leagues. You want to play against the best," said the manager, whose team is facing the team with the best record in the majors.
It was Hairston who got the Mets going this time. With two outs in the first inning, he lined a hit to left and sprinted around first, to second, stretching it into a double. He ran hard around third, toward home in what seemed like a hopeless cause when Daniel Murphy hit an easy pop between first and second. Phillies all-star first and second basemen Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, respectively, each looked at each other and let the ball fall, allowing Hairston's hustle to become a 1-0 lead.
That invigorated Jonathon Niese. The Mets pitcher was much stronger than his all-star counterpart. Niese did not allow more than one hit in any of the first six innings, shutting down a club that had scored seven runs in a win Friday night.
Pitching carried the Mets above .500 in the pre-All-Star Game phase of the season and it will likely have to hold up its end in the post-Beltran phase.
It doesn't hurt that they can drill some hits every now and then, too. The Mets went ahead 3-0 in the second as Niese worked an unlikely walk, advanced on a single by Justin Turner and came home on Hairston's second consecutive double.
Murphy led off the fifth with a home run to right-centerfield. The Mets added two more when Jason Bay singled--that's how good a day it was, Bay singled in successive innings--stole second and scored on Evans' triple to right. Evans scored on a single by Tejada and the Mets led 7-0.
The Phillies finally got to Niese in the seventh, starting the inning with three consecutive singles and getting a hand from Tejada's second error of the game. Still, they got only two runs, one of them unearned.
The Mets more than made up for it with four runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped by Hairston's three-run shot into the leftfield seats.
NOTEBOOK: Jose Reyes ran well today, looked energetic during stretching exercises and batting practice and is expected to run the bases Sunday. A return date will be determined jointly by the Mets' baseball and medical staffs, Collins said, adding, "He felt great"The Citi Field crowd gave a standing ovation to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry, recipient of the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama earlier in the week. Petry, a Mets fan, saved the lives of two fellow soldiers by handling and disposing of a live grenade in Afghanistan three years agoA change in the scoring of a play Friday night was announced. Justin Turner was awarded a hit, rather than a fielder's choice, on a ball to right on which R.A. Dickey hesitated and would have been out if not for a misplay by rightfielder Domonic Brown. It had looked like a hit to the Mets all the way. "I've never ever seen that in baseball," Turner said of the original fielder's choice scoring. "I don't know what the thought process was behind it, but I was shocked."