DETROIT -- The slam streak had long since become the stuff of local legend, bandied about as statistical fuel for criticism, motivation, surrealism, whatever. Mets manager Terry Collins brushed aside a line of questioning involving the streak last weekend, quipping that he'd happily settle for a solo shot. Forget grand slams. Power had been that scarce for the Mets, who had not hit a home run in five games.
The Mets had little time to ponder that opposing teams had out-slammed them, 18-0, since Angel Pagan last hit one on Aug. 1, 2009. Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran, the men who finally snapped the inexplicable streak on Tuesday and started a new one of their own, knew of the drought -- but not of its details. Pagan had no idea.
So when it finally ended Tuesday, behind slams from Bay and Beltran in a 14-3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park, the Mets -- above .500 for the first time since April 6 -- struggled to explain it.
"This game is so remarkable," starting pitcher R.A. Dickey said. "Right when you think you've got a handle on it, it shows you something entirely different."
Something like this, for example. Already up five runs on the first-place Tigers in the fourth, the Mets loaded the bases against starter Rick Porcello and reliever Daniel Schlereth, before Jason Bay crushed his third career grand slam over the left-field fence. An inning later, after another quick rally against Schlereth, Beltran hit his own slam over the same wall.
In the span of minutes, the Mets not only vaporized their drought, but also started a new slam streak. It's now two and counting -- in the black, not the red.
"In this game, there are things that take a while to happen," Beltran said. "No explanation for it."
Since Pagan's slam, the Mets had come up empty in 280 consecutive at-bats with the bases loaded, over the span of 299 games. The league's 29 other teams had combined for 197 grand slams during that time, including 18 against the Mets -- the most unanswered slams in Major League history. In terms of games, it marked the longest streak without a slam since the Marlins endured a 363-game dry spell from 2002-04.
In many ways, the streak was a product of the quirks and aberrations so unique to baseball. The Mets have suffered through losing seasons recently, but they have hardly been inept. They have struggled to hit home runs, but they have hit enough, statistically, that a slam should have long since happened.
Yet it did not. Somehow, it did not. When relatively anonymous opponents such as Justin Maxwell, Jake Fox and David Ross hit slams against them, the Mets proved unable to return fire. When more typical suspects such as Ryan Howard, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez slammed them both at home and away, the Mets did nothing to respond. Eighteen times, their outfielders looked up and watched balls whiz over their heads, turning to see four-man carousels circle home.
Then Tuesday came. The Mets had not homered in five games. They were playing without arguably their top two power hitters, David Wright and Ike Davis. They were visiting Comerica, one of the game's foremost pitcher's parks, to battle a first-place team. They were opposing Porcello, a sinkerballer. Bay was still struggling to overcome a season-long slump. Beltran was struggling from the right side of the plate.
So of course they hit two grand slams; one simply would not have fulfilled their quota for the absurd. And of course Bay and Beltran were the men to do it, becoming the second pair of Mets to hit grand slams in the same game. (Beltran and Cliff Floyd were the first, in 2006.)
"It's hard," Pagan said. "When you have three men on base, you're not thinking about getting a grand slam, but getting the job done."
Still, it happens. In some ways, the streak seemed akin to the Mets' no-hitter drought, now halfway through its 50th season. Statistically, logically, it should have happened by now. Probably more than once.
"It was pretty heavy," Bay said of the slam drought. "So to go from that to two in one game was pretty unforeseen."
It was also an apt reflection of the offense, which has exploded in equally unforeseen ways. Playing two consecutive series against first-place American League teams, the Mets have won three in a row, averaging a dozen runs and 16 hits over that span.
Until Tuesday, they had done it mostly with singles and doubles and two-out hits, relying on the otherworldly offensive run of Jose Reyes. And it seemed as if they would continue doing so in the early innings Tuesday, after Reyes singled and scored to open the game, singled and stole a bag with two outs in the second and hit his 15th triple of the season in the fourth.
Reyes finished 4-for-4, reaching base five times, finishing a homer shy of the cycle and prompting Tigers manager Jim Leyland to call him "one of those dynamic-type players." The triple was his 15th of the season, making him the only player in the liveball era (since 1920) to rack up 15 triples in his first 79 games. Every other starting Mets position player recorded at least one hit. Even catcher Josh Thole hit his first home run of the season, backing Dickey, who allowed three runs in seven innings.
It was all quite unexpected and quite remarkable, even to the men involved. Asked to explain his team's multiple slams after a two-year drought, Collins twisted his face in an expression almost resembling pain.
"What can I say, except we got guys on and we came through with a big hit?" Collins said. "We came through with a big swing."
Two, in fact. Somehow, some way.
"I guess the no-hitter's next," Dickey said. "Right?"