Jerry Manuel's moves in Sunday's game provided Ken Davidoff with...

Jerry Manuel's moves in Sunday's game provided Ken Davidoff with a rare oportunity to praise the Mets' manager. Credit: Christopher Pasatieri, file

Until they start playing competently on the road, these Mets are little more than a carnival ride. But hey, carnival rides are entertaining, and when they're going well, you salute the person running it.

Thus, on a day like yesterday, when the Mets erased a five-run deficit and validated a few late decisions by Jerry Manuel in edging the Marlins, 7-6, for a three-game sweep at Citi Field, it felt right to salute the Mets' beleaguered skipper.

"I'll credit Jerry for that," Jeff Francoeur said. "He was in the dugout, cheering us on, saying, 'Let's go! Let's go!' "

"By far the most positive manager I've played for," Jason Bay said. "That's no slight of anybody else. That's just, given the market and the uncertainty and the ups and downs we've gone through, he's never wavered on his stance of being positive and staying behind guys. I know it's not easy."

It's understood fully here that Francoeur (a tying three-run homer in the seventh) and Bay (a key single in the eighth) contributed much more to the victory than anything Manuel did. So don't consider this a call for Manuel to keep his job, for either the short term or the long term.

To the contrary, the Mets appear unlikely to maximize their assets as long as Manuel is calling the shots, due to his extremely questionable decisions on roster management, lineup construction and in-game tactics.

Instead, consider this a concession that managers can do only so much. An understanding that Manuel is well-liked by both the people above him - Fred Wilpon shook his hand and exchanged a few words after the game - and those below him.

And praise of his successful calls, especially on a day when Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez inexplicably played his infield back when the Mets had men on first and third with none out in the eighth. Ike Davis hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but because Hanley Ramirez was so deep, he had no chance to throw out the eventual winning run, Angel Pagan, at home.

Ramirez, the Marlins' best hitter, came up with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth. Manuel had Elmer Dessens intentionally walk Ramirez, then called upon lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano to go after Chris Coghlan. Admittedly not brain surgery, but Feliciano had faltered in his two previous appearances, and an extra-base hit could've put the Mets in a two-run hole. Feliciano struck out Coghlan on three pitches.

"Feliciano is our guy," Manuel said. "If we are to get a big out, we feel very comfortable with him."

"I've been struggling a little bit," Feliciano said. "When I saw them walking Hanley for me to pitch to Coghlan, that's big."

In the bottom of the eighth, Manuel sent Pagan from first on a 3-and-2 pitch from Clay Hensley to Bay, whose 55 strikeouts rank second on the Mets - risking a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play. Bay responded with a "six-hopper," as he called it, that found leftfield. Pagan scurried to third and came home on Davis' double-play ball.

"Once he fouled off a good fastball [on the first full-count pitch], we pretty much felt that even if he threw a breaking ball, we'd have a chance to steal a base," Manuel said. "If that's a breaking ball and he swings and misses, [Pagan] still has a good chance to steal the base."

"I'd rather him be running in that situation," Bay said. "It's a vote of confidence in myself, plus an increased [opportunity] for the hitter."

Manuel is, what? A week away from more chatter about his job security? That's the business, the market.

All the more reason why the intriguingly imperfect Mets, including their manager, deserve to enjoy their day off today. Who knows which way this ride will turn next?

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