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Davidoff: Mets must win on road to be contenders

A fan celebrates the Mets' three-game sweep of

A fan celebrates the Mets' three-game sweep of the Phillies at Citi Field. (May 27, 2010) Credit: Kathy Kmonicek

This Mets homestand began with management giving away free tickets to the Subway Series, a stunning act of generosity fueled by poor sales.

It concluded with a run, just as shocking, of historic stinginess.

These Mets are back in the playoff conversation because they recorded a mind-blowing third straight shutout of the Phillies, 3-0, at Citi Field last night. The last time, and only other time, the Mets shut out an opponent for the entirety of a three-game series occurred from Sept. 26-28 in 1969.

"To keep this team from scoring in three games, that's huge," Jerry Manuel said.

Ascendant second starter Mike Pelfrey, who kicked off the current five-game winning streak with a dominant performance against the Yankees on Saturday, worked around his wildness, countering five walks by getting the Phillies to hit into three double plays in seven innings.

Now 19-9 at the pitchers' haven they call home, the Mets boarded a plane early this morning for Milwaukee, where they will begin their quest to become truly relevant. To play well enough so that, come a month from now, ownership will feel compelled to pursue one of the big-name starting pitchers who very likely will be available.

The Brewers are 6-15 at their home, Miller Park, which will make them a compelling match for the Mets - who are 6-14 on the road.

Speaking of his team's confidence at home, Manuel said, "We have to take that out on the road and perform there like we performed at home."

"Until we do better at that, we're not going to get to where we want to go," Jason Bay said.

Strong starting pitching this homestand drove the Mets back over .500 and saved Manuel's job, but we all recognize that the rotation remains the team's Achilles' heel. "We're always going to be looking to add to our starting rotation," Omar Minaya said Thursday.

An unusually buyer-friendly market appears to be developing. You know that Roy Oswalt wants out of Houston. Cliff Lee, said by friends to be unhappy about playing for Seattle, figures to be shipped out by the dramatically underachieving Mariners, the third time Lee will have been traded in a year's time.

Baltimore's Kevin Millwood will make a nice pennant-race pickup for someone, and perhaps Cleveland's Jake Westbrook will pitch better with a transition to the NL. The Astros also have former Phillie Brett Myers on a tidy one-year deal.

Don't count on Oswalt coming to Flushing. The Mets aren't. Like most clubs, they're not convinced that Astros owner Drayton McLane will pull the trigger without finding a team that will both take on Oswalt's money - the righthander makes $15 million this year and $16 million next year, with a $2-million buyout on a $16-million team option in 2012 - and give up top-shelf prospects. Such a team likely doesn't exist.

Lee would be the dream acquisition, especially with the Phillies having dealt him away last winter. The Mariners aren't quite ready to trade him yet. When they are, however, the Mets could be in the mix, with the Angels, Dodgers and Reds other candidates. The same goes for Millwood, Westbrook, Myers and whoever else becomes available . . .

. . . if the Mets can play better on the road while maintaining their home superiority. A .500 road mark would get it done, the Mets believe.

They do have to find a way, if they want to find a pitcher. Based on what the Mets just accomplished these last five days, that seems like an eminently doable task.

New York Sports