New-look Mets take series opener from Rockies

NEW YORK -- Four hits won't be enough to win most nights in the major leagues. But it was plenty for the New York Mets on Monday.

They got another excellent pitching performance, this time from Jonathon Niese. But it wasn't just that. The Mets manufactured three runs in the seventh inning with just two singles, two walks and a hit batsman, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 victory.

There's something special brewing here in Queens -- at least it feels that way.

"It was one of those games that, probably a year ago, we don't win that game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But the team, with what they're doing right now, the confidence that they have, tonight we win those kind of games."

It looked for a long time like Niese would be a hard-luck loser once again. He entered the game 6-9 despite an ERA of only 3.51, and gave up only two runs in seven innings, coming on Carlos Gonzalez's fourth-inning two-run homer.

But the Mets mustered just one hit in six innings off Rockies starter Jon Gray. The third overall pick in the 2013 draft, making just his second major league start, gave up a second-inning solo shot to Travis d'Arnaud, and that was all.

Gray only needed 75 pitches to navigate those six frames, but he was pulled after the sixth nonetheless with Colorado being very protective of its rising star. And that's when the game swung in the Mets' favor.

Rockies relievers Justin Miller and Boone Logan couldn't finish the job. D'Arnaud delivered a single. Michael Conforto and Ruben Tejada managed walks. Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch, bringing home the tying run. And then Daniel Murphy put the Mets in front with a seeing-eye single just under the glove of former Met Jose Reyes.

"We're playing good baseball," Murphy said.

He's right.

The players involved in that seventh-inning rally were here at the beginning of the season, with the exception of Conforto, who was called up from Double-A two-and-a-half weeks ago. But the players the Mets have brought in prior to the trade deadline -- Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard -- have made a big impact, and not just with their individual performances.

This team, which hasn't finished above .500 since 2008, let alone make the playoffs, suddenly has the swagger of a perennial contender.

"Those guys have fitted in perfectly with us," Murphy said. "I think they have helped take our game to another level with their experience."

"Now definitely there’s no panic," d'Arnaud said. "We all believe in ourselves now, and it's a lot more fun, that's for sure."

Even the pitchers have gained confidence -- and they were already pretty great.

"It's good to know that with our offense right now, at any given point, they can blow up and score three or four runs in an inning," Niese said. "It's a good feeling to know that one mistake isn't gonna cost you the game."

Niese made one mistake Monday, and it didn't cost him this time. That's because he isn't pitching for the same team he pitched for in April, May and June.

"This is where we are right now," Collins said. "I'm sitting there tonight trying to decide whether to [pinch-] hit [Michael] Cuddyer or Uribe. [Wilmer Flores] is swinging the bat pretty good; we had him. We haven't had that. We haven't had that until three weeks ago, two weeks ago.

"That's why I think there's that confidence and that air on the bench that, hey look, we got some weapons over here too in case you need 'em. It's just a whole different makeup."

A makeup that looks capable of reaching the postseason. The Mets finally made some moves, and they appear to be paying off.