David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
This was not October and this was not the postseason -- or even a late-September playoff push, for that matter.
It's been a while -- OK, a long, long time -- since Wright had experienced such an important baseball game. And he wasn't about to diminish those fond, faraway memories by comparing them to a May 27 victory, even if it was against the Yankees at Citi Field.
"No, no, no, no," Wright said.
Get the idea?
Wright's tying blast off Phil Hughes in the seventh inning had to be his most enjoyable home run of the season -- given the circumstances -- but make no mistake. The Mets' captain signed an eight-year, $138-million extension last November because he's in this thing for the long haul, and Wright wants this battered franchise to be playing important games for seven months out of the year, not just four days.
And if that means throwing a team across his shoulders during the lean times and pulling it back from the dead every so often, as Wright did Monday night, that's what he intends to do.
Not everyone is capable of doing that. Or volunteers to.
"Big players make big plays," Terry Collins said. "That's what he is. That's why he's the captain. It's amazing how many times those guys come through for you."
In Wright's early years, he was surrounded by that type of player. Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Moises Alou, to name a few. But they're all gone now, leaving Wright alone on a transitional Mets team armed with little more than his own MVP-caliber ability and blind faith in a front office that has a lot to prove.
So with all the talk about how this Subway Series lacks real star power -- most of it currently is in Tampa -- Wright stepped to the plate in the seventh inning with a purpose.
He beat Hughes in the first inning for a triple that would have been a home run in nearly every other ballpark, then got beat himself in the fourth, pounding a fastball for a routine grounder to short. "He made me look pretty silly," Wright said.
In the seventh, the Mets trailed 1-0 and were showing signs of entering belly-up mode. Hughes had retired 15 of 17 to that point, the Yankees' shutdown relief corps was idling in the bullpen, and someone had to act quickly.
It took eight pitches, with Wright fouling off four of them, but he made sure the last one landed over the Party City Deck in left-centerfield.
"Fastball in," Wright said. "It was pretty good. He pitched me tough. But in that third at-bat, I was able to see all his pitches. He was on tonight. You knew you weren't going to go up there and draw a walk. I was just able to foul off some real tough pitches until I could get one that I could handle."
With that swing, Wright picked the perfect time to end his 27-game homerless streak at Citi Field dating to last September. It also was his ninth against the Yankees, the most by any Mets player, one more than Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza.
All interesting factoids, to be sure, but the true impact was felt by his teammates as they watched that ball soar well into the seats. Brett Gardner, who had robbed Daniel Murphy of a two-run homer the inning before, didn't even bother with a courtesy jog. This was a no-doubter.
"He has professional at-bats," Murphy said. "At the end of this one, he hit it 500 feet. You could feel the energy come back into the dugout right away."
Don't believe it? Well, something propelled the Mets from rolling over against Hughes for seven innings to thwarting David Robertson -- no easy task -- in the eighth.
That doesn't happen by accident. Not for 19-29 teams like the Mets, who spent most of their energy of the past week dealing with the spirit-sucking Ike Davis Watch.
Davis again could have dwarfed whatever happened on the field with three more strikeouts Monday night. Instead, he was reduced to a footnote, with any further debate tabled for another day.
In a Subway Series begging for someone worthy of the big-city spotlight, Wright again showed why he is deserving of it.
But he still wants much, much more than that.