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first place!

Meet Your First-Place New York Mets

Brief, obvious, obligatory caveat about the 2010 Mets: At one point last season, far later in the year than this point, the Mets were in first place. On May 29, 2009, the Mets beat the Marlins 2–1 in eleven innings to hang on to a half-game lead, raising their record to 27–20. A month after that, they were 3 back of the Phillies, a month after that 10.5 back, a month after that 17.5, a month after that 24.5. A baseball season is extremely long; oddities and anomalies, in the grand scheme of matters, are normal. That said: Holy crap, the Mets are in first place!

The Mets swept Citi Field's first doubleheader (a freezing doubleheader) yesterday, from the reeling Dodgers, increasing their winning streak to six games, the longest in baseball. Johan Santana was dominant in the first game, and the Dodgers were irredeemably sloppy in the nightcap, and the Phillies lost in San Francisco, and lookie there: first place. Ten days ago, there was open and rampant speculation about when manager Jerry Manuel would be fired. They're here now.

The difference has been pitching. The Daily News points out that, going into Oliver Perez's start last night, the Mets' starters had a 1.17 ERA over the last twelve games. That will win you a lot of games even if you're starting Luis Castillo every day. Jason Bay is finally starting to hit now, too; he finally homered in the opener.

This is just a hot streak that may or may not be happening at the right time; the Mets will rarely win eight of nine even if they're good. But with a trip to Philadelphia coming this weekend — we're sorry: third-place Philadelphia — Mets fans have plenty to be happy about for the first time since ... well, since last May 29.

After all, the magic number is currently 142. Let the countdown begin!

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Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images