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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

For a change, Mets are playing well at home

New York Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson

New York Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson and John Mayberry Jr. celebrate the 7-5 win against the Miami Marlins in a baseball game at Citi Field on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

What's the opposite of buzz? That's what was in the ballpark Thursday night as the Mets hosted the Marlins before an appropriately small April crowd at Citi Field.

This isn't to criticize Mets fans. They showed their support in droves at the home opener on Monday and came out again the next night for Matt Harvey's first home start. The place was electric both days and made you think about what it could be like if the Mets reach the playoffs.

But even more important than turnstile counts -- Thursday night's announced attendance was 20,556 -- is how the Mets perform this season in front of however many people show up in Flushing.

So far, so good. The Mets are 4-0 at home after winning their fifth in a row overall, 7-5, over the Marlins.

The Mets hadn't won five in a row since 2013 and didn't have a winning record at home in any of Terry Collins' four previous seasons as manager. They have averaged 35.75 wins and 45.25 losses.

So how do they turn it around?

"That's a great question," Collins said before the game, "because we haven't figured it out in five years."

Collins dinged himself for an extra season, but let's not quibble. The sentiment was correct.

Other than lack of talent during the early Collins era, what might be the reasons?

"A lot of times we thought it might be the ballpark because we thought we had guys with power where this park ate up some guys," Collins said.

(Anyone remember Jason Bay? Yes? Sorry.)

"Unless you've got major power, this park can eat you up," Collins said. "So we made some adjustments."

The Mets brought in the fences in right-center this year, but Dillon Gee served up homers to Giancarlo Stanton to right-center and Martin Prado to left that didn't need any help Thursday night. The Marlins play in an even bigger park, so they might consider Citi Field the friendlier confines.

Wilmer Flores went deep to left for a three-run homer in the fifth to tie the score at 3. It was another no-doubter.

A back-and-forth game finally was settled when Lucas Duda continued his emergence both as a clutch hitter and against lefties with a tiebreaking RBI single with two outs in the seventh to give the Mets the lead for good.

After Monday's home opener, Michael Cuddyer said the atmosphere was so remarkable that he got "chills." Harvey's return was pretty special, too.

The last two nights?

"Still a good atmosphere,'' said Cuddyer, who followed Duda's hit with an infield single to give the bullpen a two-run cushion. "Obviously, less people. There's no question about that. But the fans that have been here have been great. It's been fun."

Perhaps folks stayed away Thursday night to watch the Rangers-Penguins playoff game. Homefield advantage is supposed to be important in hockey, basketball and football, but it's pretty key in baseball, too.

Consider: The 10 teams that made the MLB playoffs in 2014 went an average of 48-33 in their home ballparks.

The Mets went 40-41 at home last season, their best mark under Collins. Perhaps that was proof of the sort of incremental improvement the organization has made under Sandy Alderson's five-year plan.

But it's time to do better. We know that because the Mets keep telling us.

And Collins knows he won't get four more years, or even one more, if the Mets don't turn Citi Field into home sweet home for themselves and a house of horrors for their foes. As we said: So far, so good.


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