PHILADELPHIA -- Jay Bruce bristles at the notion that he had a poor season in 2016. All told, Bruce knocked 33 home runs. He drove in 99. Following a forgettable introduction to New York, he hit .277 with six homers over his final 26 games.
But it is the month of August, which saw Bruce bat .163 over his first 24 games as a Met, that sticks in the minds of so many fans. It is the month of August that had many clamoring for his trade this offseason. It is the month of August that Bruce is in the process of scrubbing off his reputation, continuing that work with two home runs -- including a tiebreaking two-run shot in the eighth -- in the Mets' 4-3 win over the Phillies on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.
"I want to be a good player," Bruce said. "I want to help this team win. I believe that we have a legitimate chance to win a World Series, and I just want to be one of the pieces to the puzzle."
Through seven games, Bruce is now tied with Mark Reynolds for the Major League lead with four home runs. None of the first three were as impactful as his eighth-inning blast, which hit an image of his own face on a scoreboard tacked to the second deck in right.
That homer came two batters after reliever Edubray Ramos threw a 96-mph fastball over Asdrubal Cabrera's head, frothing the Mets' dugout and resulting in Phillies manager Pete Mackanin's ejection. But there is only a tenuous connection between that shot of adrenaline and what Bruce did moments later, considering he had already spent most of the night locked in at the plate.
In the fourth inning, Bruce hit his first home run, drawing the Mets within one run of the Phillies. In the seventh, he walked and scored the Mets' tying run, which starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff called his most frustrating moment of the game.
Bruce finished 2-for-3 with two homers, three runs scored and three RBIs, vindicating manager Terry Collins' recent decision to bump him up to the cleanup spot.
"I haven't seen [him] like this," Collins said. "I [knew] it was in there somewhere. I'm just glad it's right now because we're not swinging the bats as a cumulative team."
Added Cabrera: "Last year, he started a little bit slow with us. But I know what kind of player he is. The player he is right now is the player he's been all his career."