Life returned to Citi Field on Tuesday night.
During Monday's loss to the Marlins, a lifeless team was greeted by a lifeless crowd that couldn't come close to filling every seat in the park. The 4-1 loss that fit as snugly as a bespoke suit for a game under those circumstances and you couldn't help feeling like it was the start of playing out the string.
Tuesday was a much different story, one that felt like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the screen explodes into color and everything comes alive all at once. Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes were back in the lineup, the crowd was more than twice the size of the one on Monday and the Mets found their way to a 4-2 win that sent everyone home happy.
It comes as no surprise that the two returning stars played big roles in the win. They reached base seven times between them, spurring rallies and getting stranded as the other Mets bats couldn't figure out how to strand fewer than 13 runners on the evening.
When they did see their way to hitting with runners on base, the two returnees were in the thick of the action. Reyes singled twice and scored the first Mets run of the game during a fifth inning rally while Beltran scored their final run the next inning as one of his five trips to the basepaths finally worked out.
Beltran's two doubles were struck with that familiar swing that looks almost effortless, although we know otherwise, and his stature at the plate made the Cardinals wisely choose to pitch around him twice rather than let him be the guy that came up with the big hit. It was a performance that made it easy to understand why other teams are clamoring for his services while also making you ache prematurely for what the Mets will lose when he's gone.
That aching feeling is one that was hard to escape after Bobby Parnell and Jason Isringhausen put the Cardinals to bed in the first outing for the revamped back end of the bullpen. It's impossible to construct a rationale for keeping Beltran more compelling than saying it is a blast to watch him play the game, which might be true but it certainly isn't going to be enough to bring playoff baseball back to Queens in the years to come.
When Beltran does go, people will remember that he brought that baseball with him when he joined the team and that the failure to keep making trips had very little to do with him. That's been lost because of one at-bat in one huge spot in 2006, making the whole Beltran era a lot more bittersweet than it ever should have been.
Those thoughts couldn't shake the fun that was had inside Citi Field on Tuesday night, though. Not even Lance Berkman's moon shot to the Shea Bridge (yes, Yankees fans the same Berkman who looked like he was a Civil War veteran last fall) could accomplish that on a night when much was right about the Mets' world.