Once upon a time — three managers, two GMs, one World Series and lots of strange sagas ago — Carlos Gomez was supposed to make a lot of Mets moments like the one he did Thursday afternoon.
Eighth inning, two outs, the Mets down by one against the Nationals but threatening with two runners on. Gomez, the onetime top prospect traded away as part of the Johan Santana deal in 2008, at the plate against Wander Suero, a leading offender for Washington’s worst-in-the-majors bullpen.
Gomez’s screaming line drive got over the left-centerfield wall for a three-run home run, and the Mets beat the Nationals, 6-4, to complete the four-game sweep, their longest win streak of the season.
The Mets (24-25) are feeling awfully good about themselves all of a sudden. This time, it had a lot to do with Gomez, who was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, a walk and a steal.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m blessed. I came back here, in this situation and playing the way we’re playing right now, a lot of energy,” said Gomez, a veteran of 13 major-league seasons who was unemployed until the Mets signed him to a minor-league deal in early March. “I’m enjoying every single time. You notice I’m in the dugout, playing defense like a little kid. I’m enjoying every single moment that God gives me to play the game that I love.”
Gomez joined the Mets from Triple-A Syracuse last week, when the team cut Keon Broxton, and until Thursday he hadn’t made much of an impact — on the field, at least. In the clubhouse, Gomez’s presence and energy and downright jubilance at nothing in particular made a noticeable difference within hours of his arrival.
When reliever Ryan O’Rourke joined the Mets Thursday morning, he told manager Mickey Callaway that Syracuse had missed Gomez in recent days, for his big personality as much as his previously hot bat.
“I used to play against him,” O’Rourke said. “And I hate him — despise him — when he is on the other team.
“Then he comes to spring training, he was next to me in the locker room, which was a little questionable at first. Then you get to know him, get to watch him, see the way he plays — literally my favorite player in the major leagues of all time. He seriously is. He plays with so much passion that you have to be in the same locker room, talk to him to understand it.”
All it took Thursday to understand that passion was watching Gomez’s home-run trot, which was really more of a sprint. By the time the ball got over the wall — his first homer with the Mets since June 25, 2007 — he triumphantly raised his right arm and turned to the excited Mets dugout. The grin stayed as he rounded the bases, and he nearly caught Wilson Ramos (intentional walk) as he approached home.
Not bad for a 33-year-old who has been a league-average hitter just once in the past four seasons.
“He’s full of energy,” said Steven Matz, who allowed one run in six innings. “That’s what you need. Keep the energy up, and when you got the energy up the whole game, you come back late in the game like we have been.”
Gomez’s dramatics became necessary when Washington scored three in the eighth against Robert Gsellman, his first runs allowed since April 27 (13 innings). A day after announcing closer Edwin Diaz would be available for as many as four outs, Callaway left Diaz in the bullpen as Gsellman struggled.
Callaway said using Diaz for more than an inning “wasn’t even an option” Thursday because he warmed up the day before and pitched the two days before that. “Today wasn’t a four-out day, just because of the workload,” Diaz, who got a three-out save, said through an interpreter.
Thanks to Gomez, it wound up not mattering. Neither did Stephen Strasburg’s seven innings (three runs, two earned), nor Juan Soto’s homer-shy-of-the-cycle day.
“We’re rolling right now,” Matz said. “[Gomez] brings the morale around here up and it’s cool to see him do what he did today.”