Wilmer Flores' walk-off homer in 12th beats Nationals
Of course, it had to end this way. One of the most eventful weeks in franchise history couldn't simply fade to black. The conclusion had to encapsulate something bigger, more dramatic, unbelievable.
It had to lead to Wilmer Flores, the unwitting reality television star, whose tears at the thought of being traded endeared him to a fan base determined to show they were watching.
"I was surprised," said Flores, whose walk-off homer in the 12th inning gave the Mets a 2-1 victory over the Nationals Friday night. "These fans are great."
Thinking he had been traded to the Brewers in a deal that ultimately fell apart on Wednesday night, Flores teared up while manning shortstop. It was the most unforgettable image of a week marked by stirring highs (Friday's trade for slugger Yoenis Cespedes) and galling lows (a second PED suspension for Jenrry Mejia).
But the scene Friday night might have rivaled it. When his first- ever walk-off homer cleared the fence, Flores pumped his fist as he touched first base, then pounded his fist to his heart as teammates mobbed him.
"Words can't describe what's been going through his head," said Matt Harvey, who was brilliant in taming the Nationals. "Everyone on the team is so happy for him."
The most energetic crowd at Citi Field let out one final roar on a night filled with them.
The Mets (53-50) gained a game on the Nationals and trail them by only two games in the NL East, which suddenly looks winnable, especially with Cespedes expected to join the team Saturday.
The Mets envisioned nights like this. As they reworked their roster leading up to Friday's non-waiver trade deadline, they sustained themselves with thoughts of building a team worthy of winning tight games against quality opponents.
That tension transformed a July night into a slice of October. Emotions ran high and tempers flared as the teams dueled into extra innings.
Bryce Harper, the Nationals' brash young slugger, was ejected in the 11th by Jerry Meals after taking a called third strike. The enraged star let loose a torrent of words, a grave mistake late in a tie game.
It had gone this way all night as the two teams scratched for footing.
Harvey, as he's often done in his big-league career, thrived off the energy of a crowd that still was buzzing from the pending arrival of Cespedes. He brought a perfect game into the sixth and got the first out before Jose Lobaton hit a soft single to right.
Only in the eighth did Harvey blink. He plunked pinch hitter Clint Robinson -- or at least appeared to do so. The call survived video review, then came back to haunt the Mets. Two batters later, Yunel Escobar tied it with a run-scoring single.
That knocked out Harvey, who struck out nine and walked none but had to settle for a no-decision despite holding the Nationals to one run in 72/3 innings.
But the night belonged to Flores. Red-eyed and distraught only 48 hours earlier, Flores played through his emotions, even when he thought he had been traded by the only franchise he's known.
So when Flores laid out in the first inning to rob Escobar of a sure hit, the reinvigorated crowd saluted him with a long standing ovation. And that was just the start. Flores added a two-out RBI single in the fourth.
"I'm going to tell you, I'm sitting here looking at some guys who are outstanding writers," manager Terry Collins said. "Outstanding. You can't write that. You guys couldn't come up with that. And you're good. But that's unbelievable."