The word "special’’ gets thrown around so often, especially as an overstatement in a sports context, that it becomes, if you will, not so special.
But then there are days like Sunday — when the Mets split a doubleheader with the Yankees, a 10-5 win in the opener and a 4-2 loss in the nightcap to win the weekend Subway Series — when something wild happens and the best those involved can do to describe it is to lean on that word, over and over, insisting on its accuracy.
These 2021 Mets are special, they say.
"It was such a great collective effort. We didn’t back down from a challenge, from the first to the last pitch of the game," Pete Alonso, who homered in each game, said between games. "That’s who we are. That’s our identity. Regardless of what’s in front of us, we never back down. We’re always going full bore right at you. We want to continue to play like that.
"It’s such a great group. This team is extremely special. This team is extremely special."
Added Marcus Stroman: "Once we get everyone back and the lineup is healthy, it’s a pretty special team."
And manager Luis Rojas: "The resiliency here is definitely something special."
The inspiration for those special quotes was a six-run rally by the Mets (43-37) in the top of the seventh, the last inning of regulation in pandemic-era doubleheader games.
Alonso led off with a tying home run against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who retired none of his three batters. Jose Peraza followed with a tiebreaking two-run double off Lucas Luetge, who was charged with the final three runs.
The game-winner from Peraza came with a brief controversy. He swatted a line drive to deep leftfield and a fan in a Mets jersey reached well over the wall to make the catch and take the ball out of play. After Peraza rounded the bases, trying to sell his would-be grand slam, the umpires ruled it a two-run fan-interference double.
Consider that a mere technicality. Brandon Nimmo added a two-run single and scored on Francisco Lindor’s single.
"The energy as everything unfolded was incredible," said Alonso, who received cheers from the Mets fans among the 42,714 in attendance as he stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning. "Once it started, it couldn’t be stopped."
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (four runs, 3 1⁄3 innings) and Stroman (five innings, five runs, three earned) were mediocre.
Cole was in sticky situations most of the day, beginning with Dominic Smith’s homer — a projected 368 feet into the short porch in rightfield — in the first.
Stroman walked one batter, hit another and struck out zero. His ERA is 2.60. The Yankees tallied three runs in the third after Lindor committed an error on a potential double-play grounder. Kyle Higashioka — the light-hitting personal catcher for Cole — delivered a two-run double.
Noting that "my motion, my delivery was out of sync," Stroman suggested it might have been because he hadn’t pitched in a week, his start delayed by a stay on the bereavement list after the death of his grandmother.
"I struggled," Stroman said. "I wasn’t sharp from pitch one."
In the second game, fill-in starter Corey Oswalt lasted four innings and allowed three runs, all on Gio Urshela’s homer into the first row of seats in rightfield. "Anywhere else, it’s probably not out," Oswalt said.
It was a bullpen game for the Yankees, too, but the Mets managed only three hits. Chad Green had an immaculate inning — three strikeouts on nine pitches — in the seventh to finish his three perfect frames of relief.
"You leave this place and you’re happy with the way we played," Rojas said. "A split of a doubleheader always feels like a win."
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