It started in the sixth, and for three frantic, exciting innings, it felt as if Citi Field had been transported to another time, a better time.
Jose Reyes’ 34-year-old legs acted about five years younger, propelling him around the bases the way they used to, as if he had some unseen motor or maybe a secret pair of wings. Mike Piazza appeared on the scoreboard, urging the crowd to get loud. And that same crowd — a packed house, thanks to a coveted Noah Syndergaard bobblehead giveaway — jumped and screamed and chanted in a way that’s been increasingly rare in these last few months.
Then came the blast — the blast that reminded everyone of some of the Mets’ best times. It was two years ago that Wilmer Flores hit a walk-off home run to help propel the Mets to a second half that would end in a World Series run. There may not be any such future this year, but last night, he provided an encore. Flores hit the game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth, as the Mets overcame a five-run deficit to beat the A’s, 6-5, for their fourth straight win.
“We feel good,” said Reyes, who hit two triples and was pivotal in a four-run sixth inning. “We’re coming out of the All-Star break strong and we hope we can continue to play like that. We know there’s a lot of baseball left. We know it’s not going to be easy but we still believe.”
Ya gotta believe? Now that’s really old school.
Zack Wheeler allowed five runs by the third inning, continuing to showcase the control issues that have plagued him this year. But the Mets finally made up that deficit in the eighth, sparked by Travis d’Arnaud two-out double. Lucas Duda then came in to pinch hit and smacked an RBI single up the middle, sending the crowd into a tizzy that was downright nostalgic.
“It can really mean a lot,” Terry Collins said of the win. “Any time, the way things have been going, if you can help out in a big win like this, if you can make an impact, I think it helps the entire spirit of the club.”
Down 5-0, Flores kicked off the four-run sixth with a leadoff double, and Jay Bruce hammered a ball to straightaway center, a two-run home run and his team-high 25th. Then, one out later, Reyes, who had already tripled, added another for his first two-triple game since 2012. He came home on a single by d’Arnaud. After Curtis Granderson hit into a fielder’s choice, Michael Conforto pounced, lacing a double to left. Granderson scored, the ball skittered away and Conforto tried for third. He was originally called out, but in a break that seemed more common to the Mets of old, he was called safe on review. The Mets drew to within 5-4 before Asdrubal Cabrera struck out.
Before all that, the Mets looked every bit like the team that’s struggled all season.
It took 36 pitches for Wheeler to get out of the first, 32 to get the second out and just two to put the Mets in a hole. Matt Joyce led off with a home run to center, and Wheeler walked Marcus Semien, who came home on Khris Davis’ single. Two more scored after that, on Bruce Maxwell’s RBI double and Matt Chapman’s sacrifice fly.
Chapman added a solo homer in the third. Wheeler, though, at up as many innings as the Mets hoped for before being pulled after five innings for Josh Smoker. Three pitchers, including Hansel Robles, who earned his second straight win, combined to allow only four baserunners for the remainder of the game. That, too, was a throwback to the Mets of old.
“The bullpen kept us in the game and we didn’t give up,” Flores said. “Every inning we were battling . . . We were a little bit down the first inning, but . . . it was all about the bullpen keeping us in.”
That’s what allowed Flores to collect his sixth career walk-off RBI. Though perhaps not as dramatic as the one two years ago — that one came shortly after his trade to the Brewers fell through — he said it was “the same feeling.”
“I got the pitch I wanted and it was a good swing,” he said. “As a hitter, you don’t want to try to do too much but at the same time, you want to try to do something.”