Gregg Jefferies' goal at the start of the season was to win the International League championship. He got his title, but it was the National League East Division crown.

The New York Mets clinched their second division title in three years Thursday night with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia at Shea Stadium.While the veterans on the team were excited, they had been through the celebration scene before.

For Jefferies, however, it was an unexpected moment.

"This is great," the baby-faced Jefferies said as his teammates sprayed champagne in the Mets' clubhouse. "The crowd really got into it and it was exciting just to be part of it."

The Mets recalled Jefferies from Class AAA Tidewater on Aug. 27 and the plan was to use him as a utility infielder and pinch hitter.

The plan changed and so did the Mets' sputtering offense.

In Jefferies' first start on Aug. 28 against San Francisco, he went 2-for-5 and the next day against San Diego he was 3-for-4 with a double, triple and home run.

Jefferies has 30 hits in 82 at-bats (.366) with seven doubles, two triples, six home runs and 13 RBI.

"He sparked our offense," Mets batting coach Bill Robinson said. "We were in first place when he got here but we pulled away when he got into the lineup."

The Mets' victory Thursday was their eighth straight and 22nd in their last 27 games.

"Gregg has been very important to our team," Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez said. "He's a wonderful kid and this time has been special for him."

Mets manager Davey Johnson hasn't made it official, but it seems certain Jefferies will be in the starting lineup for the playoffs and World Series.

"I'm looking forward to playing the Dodgers," Jefferies said. "They have been one of winningest teams."

Playing in Los Angeles will be a homecoming of sorts for the 21-year-old Jefferies.

As a senior at Serra High in San Mateo, Calif., he hit .464 and was regarded as one of the top prospects of the country.

Jefferies, the Mets' No. 1 pick in the 1985 June free agent draft, struggled at first with Tidewater and was hitting .282 when he was recalled.

"I wasn't even thinking about the Mets," Jefferies said. "I set a goal for myself last winter to win a championship and this year it was at Tidewater. While we didn't win the title, we did get into the playoffs."

While Jefferies enjoyed immediate success with the Mets, one of his older teammates recalled New York's leaner days.

"It's a great ride for him," Lee Mazzilli said. "He comes up and a few weeks later he's part of a championship team."

While 45,000-plus attended the Mets' clincher, Mazzilli recalled the late 1970s when only a few thousand would turn up at Shea.

"Sometimes I look around and see all the sellouts and think about the losing and empty seats," Mazzilli said.

Losing and empty seats are not part of Gregg Jefferies' world right now.