PHILADELPHIA — When the clubhouse doors opened Friday night, after the Mets’ 5-1 win over the Phillies, the overhead TVs displayed what was happening at Busch Stadium, where a Cardinals’ loss would clinch a wild-card berth for Terry Collins’ crew.
Kind of a big deal. The first back-to-back playoff appearances for the Mets since Bobby Valentine’s tenure at the turn of the millennium. Not to mention a monster comeback, rallying from a 5 1/2-game deficit in mid-August to seize control of their own destiny by the final weekend of the regular season.
Despite everything at stake, and the struggle to get to this point, as far as we could tell not a single Met was watching those clubhouse TVs.
Jay Bruce spent his postgame minutes surrounded by reporters asking him yet again about his resurgence after his third home run in three games. Robert Gsellman, because of the larger-than-usual media horde, retreated to a hallway to talk yet again about how much he’s done as an emergency fill-in for the Mets’ ailing rotation.
Noah Syndergaard, meanwhile, peeled the wrapping off an ice cream sandwich and happily munched on the frozen treat as he headed for the exit.
Nobody cared about what the Cardinals were or weren’t doing against the Pirates, which is probably just as well. During the past six weeks, the Mets climbed back from oblivion — and to the top of the wild-card pack — by focusing on the task at hand: hitting better, pitching better, with Collins attempting to steer them clear of distraction.
That strategy has worked pretty well so far, and did again with Friday night’s victory, which moved the Mets (86-74) to a season-best 12 games over .500. They’re also 26-12 (.684) since Aug. 20, the best winning percentage in the majors over that stretch. No wonder before the game Collins said he planned to go to bed rather than stick around in the clubhouse to see what the Cardinals did.
The manager didn’t change his mind afterward. The plan all along was for the Mets to go back to the hotel and rest up for the 1 p.m. game regardless, but the Cardinals made it an easier decision by taking a quick and convincing lead over the Pirates en route to a 7-0 victory.
Jedd Gyorko homered early to put St. Louis up, 1-0. Shortly after the Mets dispatched the Phillies in under three hours — brief by this September’s standards — the Cardinals’ Brandon Moss went deep to make it 5-0. As the Mets completed their postgame interviews, and Sydnergaard fetched his ice cream, Matt Holliday smacked another homer to put the Cardinals ahead 7-0 before a rain delay. By then, the Mets’ clubhouse was virtually empty.
“I’m not staying,” Collins said. “There will be another day this weekend [to celebrate] I hope. Nobody’s caught up in anything but winning right now. That’s why we’re not going to sit around.”
The last stragglers were general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco, who sat in Collins’ office and mostly fiddled with their phones as the Cardinals’ game played on the office TV. They apparently were just waiting for Collins to get ready to leave. The Mets have a 1 p.m. game Saturday — moved up from the originally-scheduled 7 to accommodate the Fox national broadcast — and the clubhouse, from the GM down, seemed more fixated on preparing for that than anything happening on TV.
“Tomorrow is the most important game of the season,” Curtis Granderson said.
Fortunately, it’s coming against the Phillies, who — get this — plan to throw a bullpen game at the laser-focused Mets. That’s right, a Philly relief corp that’s pitched to a 7.94 ERA the past month will be responsible for playing spoiler Saturday against a Mets’ team that ripped them for 46 runs over four games at Citi Field last week.
The Mets didn’t linger in the clubhouse. But who could sleep, with the very likely possibility of a champagne party Saturday afternoon?
“Wow,” Jose Reyes said, then pausing for a deep breath. “Wow, man. I’ve laid in bed thinking about that very thing. Because it’s been a long time for me.”
And now it’s almost here for the Mets.