David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The last time the Mets won 39 of their first 58 home games, as they now have done with Monday night's 4-2 comeback victory over the Rockies, the season ended with a trip to the World Series in 2000.
They called Shea Stadium home back then, the manager was Bobby Valentine and the Mets relied on an outfield composed of Benny Agbayani, Derek Bell and Jay Payton. They won 94 games in the regular season and rode the wild card to the Fall Classic before losing to the Yankees in five games.
We bring that up now because some seasons defy explanation. They just sort of snowball, gathering momentum along the way, and the players seem to get caught up in the giddy, tumbling dogpile.
But what formula creates this? Does winning breed the confidence required for the seventh-inning rally the Mets used Monday night, when they scored the go-ahead runs on a bouncer by Daniel Murphy that squeezed past Jose Reyes? Or is it more about the pieces themselves -- a roster that functions well together and views every late-inning deficit as an opportunity rather than an obstacle?
"I think it's all of the above," Terry Collins said. "We were just sitting on the bench, looking at each other, saying last year we don't win that game."
So why not? The Mets had a strikingly similar lineup Aug. 10 of last season, which was a 7-6 loss to the Phillies. Just insert David Wright for Yoenis Cespedes, Matt den Dekker for Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares for Kelly Johnson. Wilmer Flores was at short rather than Ruben Tejada.
Otherwise, Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud are carry-overs, along with the top two hitters, Curtis Granderson and Murphy. But these Mets are operating at a different level, one that has them in first place and capable of pulling off two improbable comebacks in the span of four games.
On Friday, the Mets overcame deficits in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings for the first time in franchise history to beat the Rays at Tropicana Field. On Monday night, they took a 1-0 lead on d'Arnaud's second-inning homer, then fell behind on Carlos Gonzalez's two-run shot, an opposite-field laser into the Party City Deck.
To put together this type of roll, however, it helps to get a few breaks, too. With rookie Jon Gray on a pitch count, the Rockies lifted him after only 75 although he had retired 13 of 16 after d'Arnaud's solo blast. Once the Mets got into the Rockies' sketchy bullpen for the seventh inning, three of the first four batters -- two on walks -- reached off Justin Miller.
Next came lefty Boone Logan, who forced in the tying run by drilling Granderson with a 3-and-2 changeup. Murphy followed by slapping a first-pitch, 94-mph fastball. It got past a diving Reyes and leaked through the shortstop hole for two runs and a 4-2 lead.
"It was good at-bat after good at-bat," Murphy said. "We're playing good baseball. I think it's just a lot of fun right now."
Being eight games over .500 (60-52) makes life significantly more enjoyable, and as we've mentioned, that seems to keep paying off between the lines in a lot of different ways. Monday night was the 27th comeback win for the Mets. Only the Pirates (34), Cardinals (32), Astros (29), Yankees (28) and Royals (28) have more. Since the July 31 trade for Cespedes, the Mets have come from behind in five of their eight wins.
"The team chemistry is through the roof right now," d'Arnaud said. "There's no panic anymore. We believe in ourselves."
The Mets also have a closer in Jeurys Familia who earned his 31st save Monday night. Tyler Clippard, the newly acquired setup man, supplied the perfect shutdown eighth. And Jonathon Niese chipped in with another quality start, his 11th in the past 12 outings.
They're all part of the same successful package. And for the Mets, it's all working right now.