NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran heard the critics and vowed he was not finished.
After struggling through 2014 with an injured elbow that needed surgery, he hit .162 this April with no homers and seven RBI.
He was 38, two years removed from his last strong season. His bat was slow.
"I knew that I have a lot of baseball ahead of me and all I needed to do was find the adjustment at the plate and be able to believe in the things that I have done all my career," he said.
Belief turned into reality, and his bat has kept the New York Yankees in contention for a playoff berth.
Beltran hit a three-run, second-deck home run on a 100 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard in the first inning, Michael Pineda pitched his best game in two months and the Yankees beat the Mets 5-0 Saturday to rebound from an opening loss in the weekend Subway Series.
Brian McCann added a two-run homer in the sixth, the Yankees' 200th home run this season, to quiet the sellout crowd of 43,630 at Citi Field on a sunny late-summer afternoon.
"You need those guys to step up," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Despite a left oblique injury that sidelined him from June 30 to July 19, Beltran is hitting .301 since with 16 homers and 49 RBI since the start of May.
"The first month I wasn't really basically using my lower body," Beltran said. "Looking at a lot of videos, looking at a lot of clips from previous years, I was able to make the adjustment."
And he came through with a huge hit against the Mets, the team he starred for from 2005-10. Mets fans still boo him, angry he took a bases-loaded called third strike from St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright that ended the seventh game of the 2006 NL Championship Series with New York trailing 3-1.
Beltran maintains jeering from Mets' fans bother him "not at all."
"I get booed in Kansas City. I get booed in Houston," he said, mentioning his first two big league teams.
Hoping to reach the postseason for the first time since that strikeout, the Mets saw their NL East lead over second-place Washington sliced to seven games.
After Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner looped singles into short right-center field leading off the game, Beltran fell behind 0-2 in the count, fouled back an offering and sent Syndergaard's 10th pitch of the afternoon, an inside, thigh-high fastball, into the Pepsi Porch in right field.
"I left it right in his wheelhouse," said Syndergaard (8-7).
McCann homered into the visiting bullpen in right-center on a 3-1 sinker at the letters. The Yankees already have hit 53 more home runs than they did all last season.
Trying to reach the playoffs after their first two-year absence since the early 1990s, the Yankees closed within 3 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Toronto and remained four games in front of Houston for the first AL wild card.
Pineda (11-8) had struggled since returning from a month on the disabled list caused by a right forearm strain. He allowed four singles in 5 1/3 innings to win for just the second time since the All-Star break.
Justin Wilson relieved with two on in the sixth, walked Daniel Murphy and then fanned David Wright and Lucas Duda on 97 mph pitches as both batters grimaced, the first of seven straight strikeouts for a Yankees bullpen that didn't allow a hit until a pair of singles off Chris Martin in the ninth.
"My hope was I didn't have to use him," Girardi said. "This was a game you can't afford to give away."
AS EARL WEAVER SAID
The Yankees have 36 three-run homers, their most since a team record in 2006, according to STATS.
In a marquee Sunday night matchup, Matt Harvey (12-7) starts for the Mets for the first time since Sept. 8, and CC Sabathia (4-9) goes for the Yankees. Harvey has pitched 171 2/3 innings and his agent, Scott Boras, has said doctors don't want Harvey to pitch more than 180 this year -- although Harvey says he will be available in the postseason.
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