Mark this date down, Mets fans: Aug. 28, 2020.
Remember how you felt. It’s unlikely you’ll ever experience this specific brand of euphoria again.
The juxtaposition of events that transpired Friday night, both in the Bronx and maybe somewhere on a private jet or beach house or Greenwich mansion, was something that was impossible to even dream months ago.
As if it wasn’t enough to sweep the Yankees in their own stadium, the Mets actually got to finish them with a walk-off celebration, dancing around Amed Rosario at home plate after his two-run blast stunned a bewildered Aroldis Chapman.
“This was special,” manager Luis Rojas said.
But wait. There’s more. Shortly before Rosario’s heroics iced that 4-3 victory, the news broke that hedge-fund rock star Steve Cohen, worth an estimated $13 billion, had secured the exclusive rights to purchase the Mets, just as most of the fan base had prayed for.
Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan himself with a minority share, thought he had the team back in December — as did everyone else — but that $2.6-billion sale collapsed in a management dispute with the Wilpons.
We’d be surprised if the process collapsed again, even though we’ve also learned to never say never when it comes to this franchise. But why spoil Friday night’s vibe? The Mets have too much positive mojo going for them at the moment, so we’ll assume Cohen eventually gets his way this time.
But that’s for later. Right now, the Mets still have a season to play, and judging by Friday’s revival, it could be something to get excited about. In Game 1, they rode a trio of sixth-inning homers from Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith and Jake Marisnick for a 6-4 comeback victory. Alonso stunned the Yankees’ Chad Green with a tying, three-run blast into Monument Park and Smith supplied the go-ahead shot, ending an emotional week for him personally speaking out against racial injustice.
“He’s just a great human being,” said Mets starter Michael Wacha, who was bailed out in part by Smith. “I really respect the way he carries himself on and off the field. It’s inspirational.”
Smith described the game itself as a “safe haven” for him, so those other issues, which took center stage with Thursday’s tribute at Citi Field, were put to the side for Friday.
“In the moment, when I’m rounding the bases, I don’t think about it too much,” Smith said.
The important thing is that Smith has made everyone else focus on those deadly serious matters. He’s earned the joy he’s brought to the Mets with his breakout season and that was infectious throughout the team Friday. If any team needed this night, it was the Mets, who had to endure the national embarrassment of Thursday’s hot-mic fiasco with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, followed by the humiliating statements delivered later that same night by both Fred and Jeff Wilpon.
The Wilpons praised commissioner Rob Manfred (thinking ahead to the Cohen sale, no doubt) and ripped their GM, even referring to him as “Brody” on occasion in those statements. That was the comical backdrop for Friday’s Subway Series and the Mets had every excuse to lapse back into their all-too-familiar clown show.
But just the opposite happened, and the crowning moment was provided by Rosario, the slumping shortstop who already was being talked about as potentially losing his job to the up-and-comer Andres Gimenez before too long. In the seventh inning, Jeff McNeil got it started by drawing an eight-pitch walk off Chapman, then was replaced by pinch runner Billy Hamilton, who quickly stole second.
Rojas then sent up Rosario to pinch hit, and he said later his only thought was trying to punch one of Chapman’s nuclear fastballs to rightfield for a tying single. Instead, Rosario got a hanging slider, and somehow adjusted to get it over the leftfield wall. As he circled the bases, the Mets poured from the dugout, mindful to keep some distance as they surrounded the plate. This team has never looked happier.
“The storm can be long,” Rosario said afterward through his interpreter, “but eventually it’s going to end. And the sun will come up.”
Rosario could have been speaking for Mets fans everywhere. The coming of a new dawn in Flushing no longer feels too far away.