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WAS@NYM: Young fans five over seven strong innings

In Queens, it is still difficult to dismiss the notion that when Jason Bay showed up, he brought 24 pairs of defibrillators with him.

From hapless to happening, the Mets will be seeking their fifth straight win on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series against the Nationals in Washington.

The good times began when Bay came off the disabled list Thursday and went out to left field. The Mets had lost nine of 10 immediately prior to his return from the strained rib-cage muscle that had delayed his season.

Another important cog comes off the DL to face the Nationals. Chris Young, who had been out with biceps tendinitis, is ticketed to be activated to face Jordan Zimmermann.

Zimmermann thus takes the next handoff in an impressive relay by Nationals starting pitchers: They have gone five-plus innings in each of the team's 21 games. The hot Mets loom as a candidate to bring that streak to an end.

"All of a sudden we're getting some timely hits," Bay said after contributing his daily hit to the 8-4 win Sunday over Arizona that wrapped up a series sweep. "We're getting some good pitching at the back end of ballgames. There's a lot of reason to be optimistic."

A lot more reason than there appeared to be mere days ago, when the Mets were 5-13 and buried in the basement of the National League East. They remain in last place, but can make a serious move this week.

After the set in Nationals Park, Terry Collins' club moves on to Philadelphia for three games against the Phillies.

"If we keep playing like we're playing, I think we'll be fine," Collins said. "These teams are in our division. You gotta beat them. If we are going to do anything, we got to beat teams in our division. You play them a lot. Our division is very, very good."

Last season, the Mets went 31-41 against NL East teams. They split 18 games with both the Nationals and the Phillies.

Compared to the hot and cold Mets, the Nats have been relatively consistent in the early phase of the season, hovering around the .500 mark. Accordingly, they own a 10-11 record after a 4-2 loss in Monday night's rain-delayed finale in Pittsburgh.

Mets: Long time between multi-homer days for Wright

• Before going deep twice on Sunday, David Wright hadn't produced a multi-homer game since Sept. 12, 2009, at Philadelphia.

Nationals: Desmond running into respect

• Manager Jim Riggleman thinks the NL will have to begin respecting Ian Desmond on the bases, with the infielder off to an 8-for-8 start in steals. "The league will soon find out how good an athlete he is and how much he can run and all that. Sometimes you kind of sneak around the league one time before people will start paying attention to you, but he's a good basestealer, he's aggressive. He'll probably make a few outs on the bases, but I think in the overall picture his baserunning is going be a real plus for this team."

Worth noting

Jason Marquis, almost as inconsistent at hitting as at pitching during a 12-season career -- he batted .310 in 87 at-bats in 2005, then went 10-for-72 (.139) two years later -- must again be wearing his hitting clothes. He went 2-for-3 in Sunday's win over Pittsburgh to raise his average to .400.

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