For David Wright, years of frustration are now being washed away…
Another day, another test of the Mets character and mettle.
And another day, the Mets passed their test with flying colors. Only on this day, they were embarking on their most significant series in nearly seven years.
On Monday against the Nationals, with the difference between being three games or five games ahead, the Mets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead only to see their lead dissipate out of the hands of Jon Niese, who endured his fourth consecutive ineffective start by allowing five runs to the Nationals in the fourth inning on Monday afternoon in Washington.
Suddenly it was 5-3, thanks to a grand slam by Met killer Wilson Ramos and an RBI double from Jayson Werth.
But there was no fear and no hesitation on the part of the Mets.
Terry Collins gave Niese the quick hook following Werth’s double, and in came the bullpen, firehose in hand.
And they put a four alarm fire out as easily as anyone could blow out a candle.
The bullpen’s rescue afforded the Mets an opportunity to claw their way back and push ahead of their rival in the seventh inning with three runs against the Nationals bullpen after tying it against Washington’s ace Max Scherzer.
“They don’t panic,” Collins explained. “They came out today in the biggest game of our entire season thus far, fell behind and then came back and held on. It was a great win.”
But it was a fitting way for the Mets to take the lead in this ballgame, a game that mattered more to the franchise than any of the 1108 games to precede it.
For it was David Wright – the player who witnessed failure in such games seven and eight years prior to this one – who came through to put his team in the lead with a run scoring single in the seventh, something they would not relinquish the rest of the afternoon.
It was his first game-winning RBI of the year.
“Throughout the last couple of years, that emotion hasn’t quite been there,” Wright explained. “And then on top of that, I miss four months. You’re just thinking about what it’s like when you get back and how much fun it’s going to be. You miss that emotion and that passion. You make it back and you get a chance to play in a game like this, that’s a lot of fun. That’s what continues to drive me and pumps me up.”
Wright would score the eighth and final run on Yoenis Cespedes’ double of the game as part of a decisive three run seventh inning. And when he scored, Wright seemingly pushed out seven years of negativity with a massive fist pump.
“Sometimes you just gotta let it out,” Collins said. “Good for David.”
When Wright’s journey is considered, there couldn’t have been a better way for the Mets to take the lead in this one. He endured two bone crushing defeats in 2007 and 2008, and had to serve as the face of a franchise which couldn’t get out of their own way on or off the field. Then he signed a new, long-term deal expressing his loyalty and commitment to the project Sandy Alderson and wave the company flag in front of reporters every single day answering to the emptiness of each game, day after day.
And then, he was diagnosed with the greatest trial of his life: spinal stenosis.
His own teammates, past and present, have privately marveled at Wright’s ability to brush off the negativity and handle the spotlight, for better or for worse.
And under the most important spotlight – a potential pennant-defining at-bat in the seventh inning on Monday – Wright did nothing but shine.
And he is looking forward to what lies ahead in his first pennant race in seven years.
“I don’t think you truly appreciate it until you go through some of the years we’ve been through and understand how much more fun it is coming to the ballpark when you’re playing these types of games as opposed to kind of just playing out the schedule. I think that’s something maybe I took for granted [in 2006, 2007 and 2008] that I don’t take for granted anymore. I’m going to enjoy this.”
Perhaps a lot of people in those years took things for granted, which partially led to their demise.
But for now Wright is back, under white light rather than dark light, refreshed and rejuvenated by winning and the prospects of playing in only the second tournament of his big league career.
“This is kind of what you dream about,” the Mets captain said proudly on Monday.
There’s still a long way to go. That the Nationals were able to cut 2 1/2 games off the Mets lead in just four days served as a stark reminder that the failures of 2007 and 2008 can happen again with relative ease if the Mets don’t stay sharp.
But the Mets, and their captain, hungrily believe this time, and don’t seem to be taking anything for granted now.