Yankees better be careful at Citi Field

To: New York Yankees' pitchers

From: Rob Parker

Re: New York Mets' hitters

DETROIT -- Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Let's face it. No one expected the New York Mets' hit parade to continue on Thursday afternoon.

In fact, many joked before the game against the Detroit Tigers that there was a good chance they could get no-hit. Mostly, it was because they had hit like crazy the previous two nights. Plus, Justin Verlander -- arguably baseball's hottest and stingiest pitcher -- was on the mound for the Tigers in the teams' series finale.

Coming into the game, the Mets had scored 30 runs on 36 hits in the first two games of this series. In their previous four games, they had scored 52 runs.

Even in the Mets' 5-2 loss at Comerica Park on Thursday, they still banged out 10 more hits, seven against Verlander. To show you how tough he had been of late, Verlander had given up just eight hits in his two previous starts, and one run in 17 innings of work. "They battled," Verlander said of the Mets. "There aren't any easy outs. They made me work."

That's why the New York Yankees' pitchers better be prepared for the Mets in the next round of the Subway Series, which starts on Friday night at Citi Field.

The Mets (41-40) are to be reckoned with. They are playing their best baseball of the season -- yes, even better than during their six-game winning streak in late April. The offensive numbers don't lie, especially when a team throws around some talented pitchers like rag dolls for almost a week.

"We're feeling pretty good," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We're going to go home on a positive note."

That almost never happens after a loss. But it's no crime to lose to Verlander (11-4). The Mets, who have been getting two-out hits like they are going out of style, just couldn't do it against Verlander. The hard-throwing right-hander, who was 6-0 with a 0.92 ERA in June, got out of jams against the Mets in the fourth and fifth innings, leaving two men on both times. "He's tough," said Jose Reyes, who was 2-for-3 with a walk on Thursday. "We got on base a couple of times, but he was able to make some quality pitches and get out of the inning."

These aren't the same old Mets the Yankees beat up on back in May, taking two out of three at Yankee Stadium. In that series, the Mets managed just eight runs total. The lone game they won in that series was by a score of 2-1, thanks to R.A. Dickey.

A lot has happened since then. After that series, the Mets stood 22-24 -- in fourth place in the NL East, where many expected them to be. "When we went to Yankees Stadium, we were playing very good baseball," said Reyes, who was 8-for-14 in this series versus Detroit with two doubles, a triple and two steals. "We're feeling good, so we're going to go home now. Hopefully, we can win the game [on Friday] and continue to win series."

Whether you believe in them or not, the Mets are in the wild-card race. Even without David Wright and Ike Davis, the team's offense has gotten them back to playing meaningful games.

When it's all said and done, it will probably work out the way most figured it would. The Yankees will be going to the postseason, and the Mets won't be. But we're a long way from the end of the season. Right now, the Mets are playing with a world of confidence. It's not like this offensive assault has come against American League also-rans.

The Mets -- on the road, no less -- smashed two first-place AL teams. They took two of three from the Texas Rangers, who lead the AL West. Then they came to Motown and took two of three from the Tigers, who started the day in a first-place tie with the Cleveland Indians. "If you don't have respect for the Mets the way they've hit the ball the last couple of days, there's something wrong with you," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

The Subway Series comes at a great time for the Mets. "It's fun," Collins said. "It creates great excitement in the city. You gotta get up for it. You're playing the Yankees, everybody gets up for playing the Yankees. We need to, also."

Indeed. The Yankees are red-hot. They have won five in a row after completing a three-game sweep against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. But the Mets will miss the Yankees' ace, CC Sabathia, who pitched the series finale against the Brew Crew.

The way the Mets are hitting, Sabathia is the one who caught a break.