Francoeur helps fuel eighth straight win
Mets rip four homers to extend first-place lead over Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- In the happy afterglow of Mets 9, Phillies 1, Jeff Francoeur borrowed a thought from the generic flight attendant who advises passengers what to do after they have slipped on the dangling masks over their heads and tightened the proper cords. In essence, he said, "Breathe normally."
It was April when Francoeur spoke, and even though it was the waning hours of the season's first month, it was the proper advice for all those potential hyperventilators all aglow, because the Mets are in the first place and the Phillies aren't.
"It doesn't crown us champions or anything," Francoeur said.
The Mets had played quite well Friday night. Jon Niese had pitched effectively and won for the first time this season. Francoeur, David Wright and Rod Barajas (two) had hit home runs, and Francoeur and Jason Bay had taken the Phillies' best shots and turned them into warning-track outs. Not since Opening Day had the Mets produced so comprehensive a performance.
And now the sobering news: After they had gained their eighth straight victory, after they had won for the 10th time in 11 games, after they had stretched their lead to 1 1/2 games over the runners-up in the other dugout, after they had asserted themselves at every turn and pumped caffeine into their confidence -- after all that, the Mets still have to play 139 more games, including 17 more against the Phillies and at least one -- Saturday afternoon -- against Roy Halladay.
Seldom have Earl Weaver's words -- "Momentum is tomorrow's pitcher" -- sounded so ominous.
But winning did feel a whole bunch better than Francoeur's banged-up left forearm and right knee, or getting jammed on a cold, dank night. So the Mets said, "Good for us" and left an arena that seldom has been the ally it was on this night. Back in a few hours, come Halladay or high water.
Games played in April and those contested in September are not comparable; they are equal only in matters mathematical -- all of which is not to suggest games played in the first month are without consequence. The Mets' most lopsided victory to date was quite consequential -- to them.
When the Mets had produced a 9-1 homestand against the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers, they did so against teams that hardly were at their best. And their eighth straight victory Friday night came against a team that hardly distinguished itself in its just-completed nine-game road trip.
But the Phillies are the National League champions, and, to the Mets, the Phillies are the Phillies. Beating them was something of a statement, steamrolling them underscored the statement, and shutting them down in their tiny ballpark, as Niese and his relief did, amplified whatever it was the Mets said.
But really, the victory helped the Mets more than the loss hurt the Phillies. If nothing else, it made for some symmetry -- a 9-1 homestand, followed by a 9-1 victory.
Niese's seven-inning start and the home runs buried the Phillies. In his first career appearance against them, Niese limited them to four singles, three in the second inning, and one walk.
"He's probably a bigger part of our rotation than he thinks he is," Bay said.
Niese struck out seven for the second time in three starts and completed the seventh for the first time in five starts.
"Good starting pitching seems to make everything look better," Barajas said. "You do the same things we did on offense tonight in a 15-7 game, and they don't look as good. And we are getting real good starting pitching almost every game."
Niese (1-1) had one inning of jeopardy -- in the second, when the Phillies scored and would have scored more if not for his corner outfielders. Francoeur tangled with the chain-link fence in right-center when he ran down Raul Ibanez's long fly ball with a runner on first and none out. His right knee took a beating; he still was favoring the leg after the game. Being hit by a pitch in the seventh hurt more. If he'd been walking on his hands, he would have limped more conspicuously. Francoeur isn't likely to play Saturday.
After singles by Juan Castro and Carlos Ruiz produced a run, and losing pitcher Kyle Kendrick flied out, Bay went to the top the wall in the left-field corner to catch Shane Victorino's fly ball.
That out was the second of 14 consecutive outs achieved by the Mets' left-handed starter. Niese threw five pitches in the third -- one each to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The Phillies have lost four of five games in which they have been opposed by a left-handed starter. They face Johan Santana on Sunday night. What does Weaver say to that?
The Mets scored three times in the second inning, when Wright hit his fourth home run, with one runner on base, and Francoeur hit his fourth. Wright's would have cleared the center-field wall at Citi Field. He smiled at the notion. Barajas hit his fourth in the fifth, Kendrick's final inning and, as the first batter to face Brad Lidge this season, he hit his fifth in the ninth.
The four home runs are a Mets high for the season, but they fell well short of the Citizens Bank Park record, seven, established April 19, 2005, by the Mets. The Mets also had a two-run triple, by Angel Pagan, and three doubles before their first single, by Jose Reyes, their 30th batter, in seventh.
"We were gonna fine the first guy to hit a single $50," Francoeur said.
Pagan also singled, in the ninth. It was his third hit and the Mets' 10th.
It wasn't Francoeur's first Phillies series as a Met, but it was more of what he had anticipated when he was acquired last season.
"To get the first game was awesome," Francoeur said. "The home runs took the fans out of the game early, but I got a taste of it. I love it."
"It was only one game," Bay said. He has experienced Red Sox-Yankees, but this was his first Phillies-Mets.
"The Boston-Yankees thing has become bigger than it is," he said. "I don't know the full magnitude of this yet. But you can tell by the onus put on it, it's not just another series. I'm looking forward to more."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.