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Mets clinch NL East title by beating Reds

New York Mets' Wilmer Flores holds up a

New York Mets' Wilmer Flores holds up a sign as he celebrates after clinching the NL East title following their 10-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds in a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster) Credit: AP / Aaron Doster

CINCINNATI - They popped champagne, then charged through the corridor, snaking their way from the clubhouse to the field.

The Mets could not do it alone. So one by one, they streamed onto the field, where through the drizzle of a gray day, they basked in their first joy after eight seasons of agony.

Hundreds of fans, covered in blue, had lingered long after the final out. Now, after a 10-2 win over the Reds vaulted the Mets into the postseason for the first time since 2006, they rushed outside to soak it all in.

"This city deserves this," said captain David Wright, who was serenaded all the way up the leftfield line. "These fans deserve this. This organization deserves this. I can't be more excited and more proud to wear the orange and blue."

Agony took residence in Flushing, Queens, one autumn evening in 2006. And it refused to leave, a lingering blight on the entire franchise.

From the moment that Adam Wainwright's curveball froze a shocked Carlos Beltran, agony permeated every aspect of the operation. Even in this charmed season, it reared its ugly head, forcing these Mets to recast themselves and prove themselves again.

Only then did it finally relent, giving way to the flood of unbridled joy. At precisely 7:08 p.m., Travis d'Arnaud jumped into the arms of Jeurys Familia. Soon the Mets began cleansing years of lingering bitterness, from the 2007 collapse to the franchise-rocking financial scandal that followed.

None of it mattered Saturday night, the bad old days rendered irrelevant in the afterglow of the Mets' triumphant return to October baseball. For only the eighth time in the franchise's 54 seasons, the Mets are going to the playoffs.

"It's amazing," Familia said. "I have never felt like that . . . Right now I don't have the words."

Wilmer Flores commandeered a sign proclaiming the Mets' return from the wilderness, and the eyes that once produced so many tears were bright with the excitement of playing for a championship.

Jonathon Niese held his newborn child in his arms, soaking in the roars of the fans who had gathered behind the dugout. He provided the cigars that created the smoke that filled a clubhouse drenched in beer and champagne.

"This is step one," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said. "So let's keep going."

In the clubhouse, the Mets alternated between snapping selfies and dousing themselves in Freixenet Brut and ice-cold Budweisers. The goggles they had brought for the occasion did little good.

"It's gratifying to see it come together," said GM Sandy Alderson, whose acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline altered the course of the season. "You never quite know when it's going to happen. But you have to have faith in your approach and what you're trying to do, and confidence that it will eventually work out. And all you can do is sort of enhance the probabilities."

Lucas Duda hit a grand slam in the first inning, giving the Mets the lead for good.

Matt Harvey, vilified in the aftermath of a controversy centered on his workload, demanded that he pitch into the seventh inning for the first time since Sept. 2.

When manager Terry Collins approached him to pull him out after the sixth, Harvey refused.

"For all the stuff that people have said, the last thing I ever want to do is put the ball down," Harvey said after holding the Reds to two runs in 62/3 innings. "We're on our way to October. I'm going to be out there and I'm going to be fighting every time I get the ball."

Wright hit a three-run homer in the ninth, his just reward for his steadfast service to the organization. Then Familia finished it off by striking out Jay Bruce.

Even the rival Nationals participated in the party, taking the Phillies into extra innings. With the magic number at one, the extra time allowed the Mets to put on the finishing touches themselves.

All of it left Wright thinking "just how everything turned out so perfectly."

In his excitement, d'Arnaud tossed away the ball used to record the final out. It was returned by a Mets fan who asked for nothing in return. After all those years of missteps, nothing could go wrong.

"It's tremendous for me, for our fan base," Collins said. "They've been waiting a long time for this and I'm so happy for them. We asked them to be patient and they were; this team is going to be good for a long time."

Only Wright has traveled the Mets' turbulent path in full, but his teammates celebrated as if they had taken every step. The last time the Mets won the NL East title, Duda had just finished his sophomore year at Southern California. Harvey had just finished pitching his Connecticut high school team to a championship and spent the summer on the showcase circuit ahead of his senior year.

And in the Dominican Republic, Familia had yet to discover his gift for making baseballs sink and dive at 98 mph. Yet here was Familia, given the honors of finally evicting all that agony in favor of pure joy.

"We knew we were going to get it done, it was just a matter of when,'' Wright said. "It was almost like guys said today's the day. We're going to enjoy this today.''

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