Other than the air, which was too warm, and the calendar, which said August instead of October, the Mets’ 7-6 walk-off win over the Nationals on Friday night felt and sounded and looked an awful lot like a postseason game.
Two evenly matched teams in a tight, tense game. The nearly sold-out Citi Field crowd chanting before first pitch and reacting loudly to just about every batted ball (and most pitches in between). Plenty of on-field emotion, from Marcus Stroman in his home Mets debut to Anthony Rendon’s go-ahead homer in the seventh to Todd Frazier’s tying blast in the ninth.
And then there was the most emotion of all, when Michael Conforto ended it with a two-out single over the head of rightfielder Adam Eaton that drove in Juan Lagares, capped a four-run ninth inning and gave the Mets their only lead of the night. It was the first walk-off hit of Conforto’s career.
Conforto’s teammates chased him into left-centerfield and ripped his jersey off. In front of the Mets’ dugout, he conducted an interview — televised live — shirtless.
“When guys’ shirts come off,” manager Mickey Callaway said, “it’s probably a good day.”
Said Pete Alonso, the primary jersey-grabber: “Just an in-the-moment decision. I was just happy. I didn’t know what to do, so I just ripped his jersey off.”
It was the 14th win in 15 games for the Mets (60-56), a pair of seven-game winning streaks separated by a lone loss in Pittsburgh last weekend. They are a half-game behind the Brewers for the second wild-card spot and 1 1/2 games behind the Nationals for the first wild card. The Mets are tied with the Phillies (60-56), a percentage point behind the Cardinals (59-55).
Conforto, the author of the biggest moment in the Mets’ biggest win of the year, is the only everyday player who was a part of the 2015 Mets’ second-half run to the playoffs (and eventually the World Series).
How does this compare?
“The winning of the games in the second half and being back in the race and all that feels similar,” he said. “But this is a completely different team. I can’t really compare the two teams.
“We’re young, we’re very energetic. Everybody is pulling for each other. Not to say that wasn’t the case back in ’15, but I just think this is a special group of guys. We’re putting the whole thing together now. We gotta keep it going.”
Down three in the ninth, the Mets mounted yet another comeback against Sean Doolittle, who has allowed 10 runs in six innings against the Mets (three blown saves) this year. After J.D. Davis doubled and Wilson Ramos singled with none out, Frazier tied it with a three-run shot down the leftfield line.
“You don’t feel like you’re out of a game when you’re on a run like this,” Frazier said.
Joe Panik singled, and two outs later, singles by Amed Rosario and Conforto won it.
“Probably the most fun I’ve had up here in the big leagues,” Conforto said. “What a game. To go down twice, to come back, answer right back. It was special. The stadium was packed. It felt like the playoffs. The atmosphere was amazing. We fed off of that, we fed off of each other. I just happened to be the guy that was up last.”
Stroman, who showed up to the ballpark Friday afternoon wearing a throwback Darryl Strawberry jersey, endured a roller coaster of a home debut with his new team, giving up four runs and nine hits in six innings. He struck out nine — his most in any game this season — and walked three.
Stephen Strasburg (three runs, seven innings) mostly cruised against the Mets, who didn’t have a baserunner until Jeff McNeil walked in the fourth. Moments later, Alonso and Davis hit back-to-back homers — the first a 110-mph, 426-foot rocket to left, the second a high-arcing shot into the upper deck in right — to tie it and send Citi Field into a frenzy. Alonso’s was his 38th, three shy of the Mets’ single-season record.
Rendon put the Nationals (61-54) ahead with a two-run homer off Justin Wilson in the seventh. A two-out wild pitch in the ninth gave Washington a 6-3 lead.
Consider the close call a reminder: This is where it gets tough for the Mets. They crushed mostly bad teams for the past month to revive their season. Now the schedule gets more difficult, starting with the Nationals this weekend.
The Mets’ collective attitude: Bring it.
“It’s outstanding,” Callaway said. “They believe in something and they’re going after it.”
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