Mets playing with house money

PHILADELPHIA -- All of a sudden, the New York Mets are playing with house money. Well, at least for the final two games of a season-opening road trip they are. And if you've followed this organization recently, being in the black isn't exactly a familiar financial position.

After continuing their dominance of left-hander Cole Hamels and beating the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1 on Tuesday night on the road at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets can arrive at Citi Field on Friday for the home opener no worse than a .500 club.

That's a pretty amazin' feat, considering if you looked at the schedule to open the season, you probably could not help but think the team might limp into Flushing for the home opener. After all, the Mets were due to face Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Javier Vazquez in Miami, then Hamels, Joe Blanton and Roy Halladay in Philly.

Well, separated by an off-day and about 40 degrees on the thermometer, the Mets knocked out Vazquez and Hamels, consecutively, in the third inning. They have a three-game winning streak. And, although it is ridiculously early, the Mets at 3-1 even have a share of first place in the division thanks to handing Philadelphia its first defeat of 2011 on Tuesday.

"It means a lot," said shortstop Jose Reyes, who set the table in a six-run third inning by beating out a bunt for a single, when Hamels double-clutched before throwing. "It's early, but it means a lot. It just lets everybody know that we can play with any team."

Said center fielder Angel Pagan: "It's a great beginning, but it's a long season. We have to think [about] the long run. We have to play hard every day. And hopefully we can be there in October. That's what we're looking for. The first four games, they've been good. You never know what will happen. But we feel really good right now. We played very good baseball."

When the Boston Red Sox are sitting at 0-4, and the Baltimore Orioles are 4-0, it's hard to make too much of four games. But you can't understate the importance for the Mets, who have to give their fans something to believe in if they hope to seat Citi Field beyond the home opener.

"No matter what happens in the offseason, I always think it's somewhat important to try to get off to a good start to boost some guys' confidence, to really practice winning," said third baseman David Wright, whose two-run single in the third opened the scoring and ultimately allowed him to pass Mike Piazza for the most game-winning RBIs in franchise history with 90. "When you expect to win is when you practice it and you get good at it."

Said manager Terry Collins: "I don't think it's the key series of the season. I just think we've got to continue to play well. I really do. If we come out of here playing very, very good baseball, I think our fan base is going to get excited about this team, which is basically what we're trying to do by getting off to a good start."