Pete Alonso wants to be The Man so much that he can taste it. He wants to be up in the bottom of the ninth — or the bottom of the seventh, in a 2021 doubleheader game — with the game on the line.
He wants to take the big swing. He wants to hit the big home run. And not just in the Home Run Derby. In real games. Real big games.
He wants to do what he did on Thursday, which was hit a one-out walkoff solo homer in the seventh to give the Mets a 5-4 victory and a doubleheader sweep of the Nationals at Citi Field.
Alonso’s 25th home run was a high drive to left that seemed to take an hour and a half to come down. When it did, just over the reach of the leaping Andrew Stevenson, Alonso got to joyously round the bases and get his jersey ripped off.
The Mets got to avoid what would have been a crushing defeat ahead of a 13-game stretch against the Dodgers and Giants.
It’s hard to call a game against the stripped-down Nationals a big one based on the opponent. It was a big one because the Mets need to win every time they have a chance, and they had a great chance to sweep when they took a three-run lead into the final regulation inning.
Oops. With Edwin Diaz deemed unavailable after saving wins on Wednesday night and in Thursday’s opener, Trevor May and Jeurys Familia allowed what’s left of the 2019 World Series champion Nationals (not much after their tear-down trades) to tie it.
Suddenly, a sweaty day that would have had two relatively easy Mets triumphs was in danger of turning into another fine mess.
"You gotta have this game," Ron Darling said on SNY as the bottom of the seventh opened. Darling knows. He’s a World Series champion and a newly minted Mets Hall of Famer.
Darling’s great Mets teams had stars that stepped up in the big moments. Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, to name a few.
You know Alonso wants to one day be mentioned alongside those guys. To one day make it to the Mets Hall of Fame, at least, and maybe even the big boy one in Cooperstown.
It’s OK for Alonso to think that way. You want your stars to shoot for the stars.
Alonso certainly put the bull’s-eye on himself when he implored Mets fans to not give up on the team on Sunday. The Mets had just been knocked out of first place in a three-game sweep by the Phillies and Alonso was in an 0-for-21 slide.
"Mets fans, believe in us. Don't just believe. Know," he said, before adding: "We got this. Just smile and know that we got this."
Most Mets fans on social media, including owner Steve Cohen, seemed to like that sentiment (we have greatly edited down Alonso's typically wordy, passionate screed for length and clarity).
Some did not like it. One headline called Alonso’s speech "a bizarre message." But that headline came out of Philadelphia.
Give Alonso credit for talking big when he and the team were down. That shows true belief. Or a true ability for self-delusion. Either works.
Since Alonso’s speech, the Mets are 3-0. And that’s all that should matter.
So, after his second career walkoff homer, after the Mets moved to within one-half game of the Phillies in the NL East, Alonso had his say again, directly to Mets fans. Love him or really love him, win or lose, Alonso always speaks from the heart.
"I think this series was a huge statement," he said. "But I think that we have exactly what it takes and this sky's always been the limit for us and I think that if we continue to play good baseball, focus on our day-to-day, keep preparing, keep executing, keep sticking together, the results will be there in the long term. But I'm a I'm a firm believer in that. And Mets fans, you guys can know that, too. Don’t just believe it. Know it."
(Also edited for length and clarity. But you get the gist.)