NEW YORK -- Finally, Jason Bay has joined the party.
And it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Mets couldn't wait any longer. They needed their high-priced slugger now.
Bay, the big-money free agent from Boston, had done little to nothing for the Mets through most of April. Coming into Saturday's game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, Bay was batting a paltry .230 with no home runs and just four RBIs.
That production isn't acceptable, especially for a cleanup hitter.
The last thing the Mets needed was for Bay to break out a month from now -- when they are buried in the division.
That's why it was imperative for Bay to start hitting. After the Mets' 3-1 victory on Saturday -- in which Bay collected three hits, including a game-tying double -- fans now have reason to be hopeful that Bay is finally present and accounted for.
Sure, there's still a power outage. Bay has yet to hit a home run this season. But he's hitting and that's a good start.
It started Friday night. Bay said his at-bats got better as the game went on. "I don't want to throw one day out there and proclaim that everything is turned around,'' Bay said after the Mets' 5-2 victory. "But it's the best I felt in awhile.''
Bay's lone hit was an RBI triple to right-center, a good sign to see him hit the ball the other way with authority. "Obviously, getting a hit in that situation, it felt like a grand slam,'' Bay said. "I kind of exhaled a little bit. It was that kind of swing I need to relax.''
The Mets (9-9), who are finally at .500 after a 4-8 start, aren't out of the woods. There are still seven important games on the schedule before May is in full bloom.
Right now, the Mets are winning. In probably their most important homestand -- given their slow start and injuries -- the Mets have won five of the first six games of a 10-game stretch.
The pitching has come together and given them a boost. Even better, some hitters are finally starting to hit.
They have gotten a huge lift from Jose Reyes, who is looking more like the All-Star player he was before injuries derailed him. On Friday night, Reyes had two more hits. That's eight hits in his last six games.
Rookie Ike Davis, who hit his first major league homer Friday night, is batting .350 with two RBIs in his first six games.
Reyes is hitting third now, an effort by the Mets to help Bay see more fastballs. Bay wasn't sure it helped immediately. "I don't particularly think so,'' Bay said. "Maybe it did if you want to look at a tape. I don't think all of a sudden the pitches changed. Ultimately, it worked. We scored enough runs to win.''
The Mets won't be able to do that on a consistent basis without Bay.
Now hitting .262, Bay started off his Mets career by hitting safely in nine of his first 10 games. But he isn't paid to hit meaningless singles. Bay's big bat is designed for the long ball. That has to be next.
"I haven't really felt like I had been in a good position to hit,'' Bay said. "I was kind of feeling for the ball a little bit.
"[Friday night] I kind of felt like I was in a good position to hit. I felt better today and I kind of felt like I had some things to key on, so hopefully I can take that forward.''
Saturday's hitting binge by Bay was right on time. The Mets need him to get hot and start driving in runs. The team's recent hot streak has opened the door for them to get back into the mix in the division. But without Bay, there's no way they can sustain it.
Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.