NEW YORK -- So often this season, the Mets have created only one chance on offense. If one rally stalls, another never begins.
So when Brett Gardner made one of the finest catches of the season in the sixth inning Monday, robbing Daniel Murphy of a go-ahead two-run home run, the Mets' second baseman prayed for peace. He was "fairly angry" at Gardner. His teammate, David Wright, wondered if the Mets would create another opportunity to score.
Yet it is a rejuvenated Mets team that has come to play the past two nights at Citi Field, one of uncharacteristic energy and timely comebacks. With that wave at his back, Murphy needed to wait only two more innings for another chance, drilling a go-ahead RBI single into center field.
Jogging to first, he slammed his bat to the ground in jubilation, preemptively celebrating what would become a 2-1 Subway Series win over the Yankees.
"It felt like it was a big moment," Murphy said.
Some observers opine that the juice of the Subway Series has diminished in recent summers -- that playing every year somehow cheapens the rivalry. But the Mets noted after Monday's victory that they won this one for their fans, understanding the magnitude of the night.
The rest of their energy came from the knowledge that this was a game they probably should have lost, considering all the things that went wrong. A misplayed pop fly led to a run against them. Gardner's sensational catch took two runs away from them. Jon Niese's vintage performance resulted in a no-decision.
Yet the Mets were still sticking around when Mike Baxter's bloop hit bounced into the stands for a one-out ground-rule double against David Robertson in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin followed with a seven-pitch walk -- the game's key plate appearance, according to Mets manager Terry Collins -- and a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position. The rally only temporarily stalled when Robinson Cano threw out Baxter at home on a ground ball to second base.
That brought up Murphy, who drove a Robertson cutter back up the middle for the go-ahead run. When Bobby Parnell converted the save with a scoreless ninth, the Mets moved two-thirds of the way to their first bona fide winning streak since the season's opening weekend.
"We're not very happy with the way we've played," Collins said. "But I told the guys the other day, 'Look, we've got to put the last six weeks behind us. We've got to move forward. We've got to quit coming to the ballpark in bad moods, and start to get ready to play better baseball.'"
That may be easier said than done with a scuffling offense, though neither team could do much of anything early in the Subway Series opener. Niese struck out the side in the first and retired seven straight at one juncture, completing seven innings for the second time in three starts. The only run against him came in the sixth, when Lucas Duda misplayed Gardner's shallow pop into a triple, and Jayson Nix followed with an RBI single.
With the way the Mets were swinging against Yankees starter Phil Hughes, that seemed as if it might be enough. Wright admitted that Gardner's catch "kind of took the air out of us," spoiling the Mets' best scoring opportunity and putting them on the verge of a third shutout in six games. As Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "It looked for a while like Gardy was going to be the star of the game."
But Wright rewrote the script with his leadoff homer in the seventh, a game-tying moonshot that seemed to travel as high as it did far. Then his teammates rallied around him in the eighth, with Murphy making the most of his second opportunity.
"I was thinking I would get another chance," Murphy said. "I was hoping I would get another chance."
The bat spike that followed, Murphy said, was a product of sheer jubilation. He understood how important his second opportunity was.
He also knows that if the Mets are to win with greater consistency in the weeks ahead, they will need to create second chances on a more frequent basis.
Said Wright: "It's very easy to get in those situations where you get one taken away from you like that -- especially in a big situation when the team's struggling -- and to kind of, not necessarily mope, but to hang your head and give away at-bats. [Murphy] did the opposite."