Pitching has been the New York Mets' calling card, but the bats have been vital to giving them a chance to end April atop the NL East.
After Yoenis Cespedes powered the club's best effort at the plate this year, Jacob deGrom takes the ball looking to lead them to an eighth straight win Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants.
It's not much of a surprise that New York (14-7) is fourth in the majors with a 2.81 ERA since its rotation is considered among the best in baseball.
What's much more unexpected is the offense's .286 average, 29 homers and 5.9 runs per game during a 12-2 stretch that's put the Mets one-half game back of first-place Washington in the division.
"We've just been grinding on pitchers," said left fielder Michael Conforto, who is hitting .343. "We've been tough."
New York opened this three-game set Friday by pounding out 12 hits in a 13-1 win, getting 12 runs in the third for the highest scoring inning in franchise history.
"Everybody was barreling balls up that inning," catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "It was pretty crazy, really. Just one after the other after the other."
Cespedes, however, was particularly outstanding with a team-record six RBIs in the third, connecting for a two-run single and his third career grand slam. It was the first time he'd been in the lineup in six games due to a bruised right thigh.
Cespedes is hitting .382 with six homers and 20 RBIs in his past nine games.
"It's unbelievable," Conforto said. "He's been nursing his leg and hasn't seen live pitching in three, four days, and he just comes out there, doesn't miss a beat. I mean, it's just incredible."
The same could be said of deGrom (2-0, 1.54 ERA), who yielded one run and scattered eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-2 win at Atlanta on Sunday after being away from the team for nearly two weeks. He was with his wife for the birth of their son, but he remained at the hospital due to complications upon Jaxon's arrival.
"I was a little nervous, but excited to be back," deGrom said of his first start since April 8.
DeGrom should feel comfortable back at Citi Field, where his career 1.86 ERA in 26 starts is the lowest at home by any Mets pitcher with at least 169 innings.
The right-hander has also won both of his career starts against the Giants, yielding two runs with 17 strikeouts over 15 1/3 innings. He held them to two hits and fanned 10 in eight innings of a 4-1 win at San Francisco on July 8.
The Giants (12-12) turn to Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43), who is 0-5 with a 6.64 ERA in 11 starts since getting a win at San Diego on July 22. It matches Cain's longest stretch without a win from Aug. 22, 2013-May 10, 2014.
The right-hander allowed four runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings of a no-decision in a 5-4 loss to Miami on Sunday.
"It was encouraging," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He battled well. That should do a lot for him."
Cain is 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA over his last nine starts against the Mets, but he's compiled a 0.87 ERA over the past three. He won his only decision during that stretch on July 7, yielding two hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 3-0 victory.