NEW YORK -- At the time, David Wright insisted it was nothing big. And perhaps it wasn't. But sensing something out of place with his charges, the captain called a rare players-only meeting following his team's loss to the Cubs on June 15.
Since that time, the Mets have won nine of 14, transforming into an opportunistic bunch with newfound pluck. The latest example surfaced Saturday, when the Mets took advantage of three Nationals errors en route to a 5-1 win at Citi Field, rebounding from Friday's loss to avoid consecutive defeats for the first time since Wright's meeting.
Quipped the captain: "I just think that I'm a [heck] of a motivator."
The key was a fifth-inning sequence that saw the Nationals commit two errors on a single play. After Ryan Zimmerman could not field Marlon Byrd's hot shot to third with one out, Ian Desmond scooped up the ball and skipped his throw past third base. That not only allowed Daniel Murphy to score, but paved the route for Byrd to cross home on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' sacrifice fly.
Zimmerman finished with two errors, the first of them leading to John Buck's RBI single in the fourth. After starting pitcher Taylor Jordan left the game an inning later, the Mets added runs on Eric Young Jr.'s sacrifice fly and Byrd's RBI single in the sixth. Byrd has driven in at least one run in four of his last five games.
"You need some breaks once in a while," manager Terry Collins said. "I've been in the league for three years now and I've never seen Ryan Zimmerman ever boot a ground ball. So we took advantage of those today and scored a couple runs, and made it hold up."
It was more than enough support for starting pitcher Dillon Gee, who mirrored Harvey's effectiveness without the upper-90s flash. Though Gee put at least one man on base in all six of his innings, he cracked only once, on Kurt Suzuki's two-out RBI single in the fourth. Pitching with two extra days of rest in a nod to his cranky right forearm, Gee gave up six hits and three walks, striking out four.
"Tip your hat to Gee," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He is an aggressive pitcher. He comes right at you. He changes speeds, uses all his pitches. We were just a little bit flat."
Flat enough for the Mets to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time since June 14-15, a stretch that led to Collins criticizing his team for faltering mentally. Wright called a players-only meeting following the June 15 game, and the Mets have since won nine of 14.
"I don't know if you can put a finger on just one thing," Gee said. "It just seems like we're playing with a little more fire now, and it's awesome."
In many respects, this is a markedly different bunch than the one that struggled for so much of the first third of the season. Headlining the roster turnover is Zack Wheeler, the uber-prospect who will make his home debut Sunday. But the Mets have also received significant contributions from Josh Satin, who reached base twice Saturday; Nieuwenhuis, who responded to Wright's meeting by hitting a walk-off homer the following day; Byrd, whose timely contributions have come on both sides of the ball; Young, who has sparked the top of the lineup; and quite a few others.
Of the 25 men on Collins' roster, 10 of them were not here five weeks ago. Though many arrived out of simple necessity, so much fresh blood has fortified the Mets.
"There are a couple guys who have grabbed these opportunities and played hard," Collins said. "We've had bad nights, as anybody has. But for the most part, we've hung in there."
Jokingly taking credit for it all, Wright is in truth the last person to seek acclaim. This is a team effort, he knows, as it was Saturday -- though Wright finished 0-for-3, the only starting position player without a hit or RBI, his team won regardless. With relative ease.
"You get a couple wins under your belt, you start winning a couple series, you start enjoying it," Wright said. "You come in laughing and joking around. You play a little more loosely and you let your talent take over."