Jason Bay #44 of the New York Mets waits to...

Jason Bay #44 of the New York Mets waits to bat against the Oakland Athletics in the sixth inning at Citi Field. (June 22, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Jason Bay apparently was the last to know.

The Mets leftfielder walked through the back double-doors of the Mets clubhouse yesterday afternoon, completely unaware that manager Terry Collins had rewarded him for his breakout game in the series opener against the Oakland A's.

Bay had no idea he was slotted in the cleanup spot for Wednesday night's game until reporters told him.

"That should tell you about how much I'm really into it," he said.

Bay equaled his season high with three hits Tuesday, belting a home run in the sixth inning of a 7-3 loss to the A's. The solo shot snapped a 104-at-bat homerless streak, the second-longest of his career. Bay also tripled in the eighth, marking the first time since June 28, 2010, that he recorded two extra-base hits in a game.

He hit .353 (12-for-34) in his previous nine games coming into Wednesday night. But Bay, who upped his batting average 22 points to .236 in the past week, maintained he hasn't changed his approach at the plate.

"I expected to play today when I got here," Bay said. "If I'm batting ninth I could care less. So nothing's changing."

Collins, who's desperate for another big bat in the middle of the lineup aside from Carlos Beltran, hinted after Tuesday's game that he likely would move up Bay from the sixth spot.

But he didn't feel the need to consult Bay before he drew up his lineup card.

"I know no matter where I put him he'll say fine," the manager said. "He doesn't care. We had discussions 10 days ago about where he would hit and what makes him comfortable. Right now the situation is we've got a lefty tonight [Gio Gonzalez] and we need a situation where someone protects Carlos, and Jason gives us that best option right now."

"When you talk about mechanics of swing, nobody is really the same. But at least he's getting the bat out in front, which I like a lot. It doesn't mean he's trying to pull, but he was letting the ball get too deep on him. I saw some real good bat speed [Tuesday] night. I thought the single he got the bat through the zone. I just think it's coming, so I wanted to get him in there where he can help us."

Bay, who last hit fourth on June 3, said his approach won't change now that he's hitting cleanup.

"From the hitter's point of view, unless it's something drastic like bat leadoff and asking you to take pitches, you're kind of doing the same things you're normally doing," he said.

Bay admitted his breakout performance Tuesday night was a relief, a much-needed sign that his stroke and his confidence are headed in the right direction. But he knows better than anyone else that baseball is a game of inches and seemingly endless droughts.

"I'm trying not to get too excited about it," Bay said. "Try to maintain the up and down of it and obviously there's been a lot more down so it's been tough.

"You want to enjoy it and yeah it was nice, but that's over with. What I did last night has no bearing on today, so I'm still trying to keep that even keel. But yeah, it definitely was nice to get some results finally."