The One Where Wilmer Flores Sends Everyone Home Happy . . .
After hitting a walk-off home run in the ninth inning to give the Mets a 3-2 victory over the Brewers on Sunday, Wilmer Flores stood in front of his locker wearing a hoodie with the logo from the TV show “Friends” on it.
Flores has never shied away from his connection with the iconic 1990s sitcom about living in New York City with your pals and never wanting to grow out of your 20s, even when the show lasts so long that you are clearly in your 40s.
Flores, who signed with the Mets when he was 16 out of Venezuela, learned to speak English by watching the exploits of Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe. He uses the show’s theme song, “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts, as his walk-up music.
On Sunday, it also was his walk-off music. With two outs and extra innings looming, Flores sent a 1-and-2 pitch from Matt Albers over the wall in left-center for the third walk-off homer and seventh walk-off RBI of his career.
Flores, 26, just has a flair for the dramatic. He was there for everyone (except for the Brewers, of course) who wanted to get the heck out of frigid Citi Field and didn’t want free baseball on a day when the game began in 42-degree weather with 19-mph winds.
And here’s a plot twist no one was surprised by: It only got colder during the 3-hour, 28-minute game.
“That’s what we were saying when they came off the field [after the top of the ninth],” manager Mickey Callaway said. “ ‘Hey, win it right here and we get to go get warm.’ I knew the players were ready to get off the field. It was cold.”
The Mets also were down to one available reliever, Seth Lugo, after Callaway used the rest of his bullpen in relief of Noah Syndergaard, who struck out 11 but lasted only 5 1⁄3 innings. The Mets eventually are going to need more innings from their starters to avoid bullpen fatigue, but with a 12-2 record at this point, that’s only a footnote.
The real story is how the Mets continue to win. After they fell behind 2-1 on Sunday, it was a tying home run by Brandon Nimmo in the sixth and the game-ending blast by Flores.
Both young players — Nimmo is 25 — came through in the difficult role of bench player.
How difficult is it? Consider that Jose Reyes is 0-for-16 after leading the Mets in plate appearances in 2017. Reyes, who started at second, is adjusting to not playing every day, which is something that Nimmo and Flores seem to have done already.
“It’s been like that for three years,” Flores said. “I find ways to get ready for whenever I play.”
Flores was the starting shortstop when the Mets went to the World Series in 2015. Since then, he has been a utility player. He started at first base to give Adrian Gonzalez a day off and was hitless with a walk in his first four plate appearances.
For the season, Flores had four hits in 24 at-bats (.167) when he came up against Albers. Lugo was ready in the pen and was the last man standing because Callaway was not going to use Paul Sewald after he threw three innings Saturday night.
“We didn’t want to play extra innings, for sure,” Flores said.
Flores took care of that with one swing. He then got an unwanted Gatorade bath on the field from Yoenis Cespedes.
“I told him no,’’ Flores said. “But he still did it.”