Now, the Mets find themselves on the road again and facing the back end of the league's most vaunted rotation. New York will match Chris Young against Philadelphia's Cole Hamels on Tuesday night and will see Roy Halladay, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, in the series finale. And if you ask Collins, it's a great test for his team.
"You've got to believe that you can go out and play, and they they are going to make mistakes," said Collins of facing the tough teams. "I watched [Halladay's] game the other day on TV. Obviously, the first four or five innings, he was flawless. And then all of the sudden, he made a mistake on the plate and Houston started hitting him. It doesn't matter who they are."
The Mets may be perfectly willing to listen to that message, because they have 11 new players from last year's Opening Day roster.
Left fielder Willie Harris came up with a key double on Saturday night, and he homered in Sunday's victory. Right fielder Carlos Beltran didn't start on Sunday, yielding to Lucas Duda and coming on later in the game as a pinch-hitter.
The Phillies are coming off a three-game series sweep over the Astros that featured a walk-off win and two victories by more than three runs. Philadelphia's starters have gone at least six innings and allowed three runs or fewer in all three starts this season, setting a high bar for Hamels to clear. Joe Blanton will pitch the second game of the series, followed by Halladay.
Collins paid the Phillies -- the division's four-time defending champions -- the ultimate compliment by likening them to the Yankees, saying that when he managed the Angels in the American League, one team always got his attention.
"You knew they had that great club," he said. "You got yourself up to play them. You raised your level of play a little bit higher because you wanted to show them you were as good as they are. And I think that goes with our pitching staff. I truly believe ... our guys will go in and realize what a great challenge it's going to be, and we'll rise up for it."
Mets: Young out to prove he belongs
Young will come into his season debut trying to prove that he's healthy and that he can take a steady rotation turn. The right-hander has been stopped by shoulder troubles the last two seasons, and he hasn't made more than 20 starts since 2007. Last year, Young strained his shoulder in April and didn't pitch again until September, when he finished strong with three starts.
Mike Pelfrey, who lost his first start of the season, will start the second game of the series, and Jonathan Niese will go in the finale. Ike Davis hit his first homer in Sunday's victory, and the Mets only made one error in their first three games.
Phillies: Howard aims to punish Mets again
Ryan Howard busted out with a home run and a double in Sunday's victory, driving in four of Philadelphia's seven runs. And that's an ominous sign for the Mets, because he's hurt them in the past. The Mets have held the slugger to a .259 batting average -- 20 points below his career mark -- but he's still reached them for 28 homers in 363 at-bats.
Hamels, on the other hand, has had a rough time against New York, notching a 2-8 record and a 3.83 ERA in 13 career starts. The left-hander has also struggled in April, logging his highest monthly ERA (4.11) and a 7-8 career record.
New York has won the first series of the season in five of the last six years. ... Howard now has 754 career RBIs, moving him past Willie Jones into 11th place in franchise history. ... Shane Victorino didn't start due to a sore calf Sunday but entered the game as a pinch-hitter. Victorino is expected to play Tuesday. ... Michael Martinez, a Rule 5 pick, made his Major League debut in place of Victorino on Sunday. Martinez went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in his debut. ... The Mets went 8-16 last year in the decisive game of a three-game series, and they were just 2-8 -- with both wins coming in September -- on the road in those circumstances.