Notebook: Daunting road trip

NEW YORK -- The schedule makers didn't do the Mets any favors with their upcoming road slate beginning Friday in Arizona.

"This might be, in my time here, the toughest road trip we've had to face," Collins said of the team's upcoming 11-game road trip.

"You've got to face the two top teams in the National League West, who are playing very, very good, and we know San Diego has good pitching."

Riding high off a 2-1 win over Colorado on Thursday that clinched their first three-game home sweep of the season, the Mets will be put to the test with their four-city, 11-game, 11-day road trip.

The trek begins Friday in Arizona for three games before the Mets play three against the first-place Dodgers. The Mets then visit the Padres for four games before playing a makeup game in Minnesota.

"This is big," Mets right fielder Marlon Byrd said. "Long road trips, when you have a long one and you're not winning, it's tough, you're kind of ready to get home. But we want to stay out there and keep winning. West coast, we got three tough teams, great pitching. Everybody knows about LA and the run they are on, pitching, Arizona and the pitching, and San Diego. It's going to be a tough trip."

BYRD FINE: Byrd has cooled off in August, as he's now 4-for-25 with zero homers and RBIs in the month, Collins said Thursday that Byrd may be out of gas. Byrd refuted the notion.

"Everybody's tired this time of year," Byrd said. "You go out there and you play hard. The main thing, which I have been taught coming up is, regardless of how you feel, it's that presence you have in the lineup. The other teams never know how you feel, so it's going out there every single day and giving it your all."

SECOND IN SIGHT: With Thursday's win, the Mets are now one game behind the Nationals for second place in the NL East, and even in the loss column. Collins acknowledged it would be an outstanding accomplishment if the Mets can finish second behind Atlanta, who leads the division by 15 1/2 games.

"I think it'd be huge. I think it'd be an enormous lift not only for the team, because they certainly deserve everything they got, but the entire organization," Collins said. "Some of these young guys have come up and contributed to what we're doing now. You got to keep battling. Right now we got 50 left. That's still an uphill climb."

IMPROVED PEN: The Mets bullpen has been vastly improved since a rough start to the season, as it's pitched to 2.10 ERA dating back to July 1 after throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings Thursday.

David Aardsma recorded the big out Thursday when he retired Michael Cuddyer with the Mets up 2-1 in the eighth with two on and two out.

In its last 10 games, while dealing with the loss of closer Bobby Parnell and lefty Josh Edgin, the unit has pitched to a 1.20 ERA.

"I'm still hurt that those two guys went down," said LaTroy Hawkins, who recorded the save Thursday. "Bobby was one of our leaders. He did it by example. Edgin going down, that was just as tough because he was starting to come into his own. It happens on every team. You have guys that pass the baton and pick the guys up and we continue to do that. They will be missed, that's for sure."