That’s the stuff of fiction, isn’t it?
Oh, wait. What? The Mets on July 31 last year? A home run off the bat of Wilmer Flores?
Well, for crying out loud.
One year to the day later, though perhaps not quite the stuff of such melodrama, the Mets were elevated again by a late-inning blow, this a three-run job off the bat of Neil Walker that turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead and victory over the Rockies that was punctuated by Jeurys Familia’s perfect ninth inning.
And just like that, the four-game losing streak was gone, if not entirely forgotten, on the eve of Monday’s Subway Series opener in Queens.
“It was important for the team to win a game,” said the closer who had blown save opportunities in each of his previous two appearances on Wednesday and Thursday. “It was very important for me to try and figure out my game, very important for me to do my job and to get confidence [back].
“Everybody knows we have been struggling the last couple of days. But every team goes through that,” said Familia, who noted that throwing strikes is the key to his game. “The win was very important for us to get going.”
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, so despite all their recent troubles, the Mets enter this Subway Series on the throne of baseball New York. Both teams can ask, “Where is the rest of us?” but while the answer for the Yankees is Chicago and Cleveland (and other to-be-named out-of-town precincts), the answer for the Mets is the disabled list or the bench.
For while Yoenis Cespedes was out on Sunday and is iffy for Monday with that pesky recurring quad strain that might have been better addressed with a trip to the disabled list upon the original incident on July 8, and while Jose Reyes and Juan Lagares (and, of course, David Wright, Lucas Duda and Matt Harvey) are on the DL, it was Asdrubal Carrera who went down in this one with a left-knee tendon issue that he suffered while rounding third and heading for home on Walker’s first-inning triple.
“You’re always going to have some adversity,” said Walker, 12-for-19 with five RBIs over the last four games following a fallow previous three weeks that created the need to give the second baseman a break for a couple of days. “You know nobody is going to feel bad for you or take it easy on you.
“You just keep grinding.”
Noah Syndergaard, who hasn’t been the same for the last three weeks, grinded through six innings in which he allowed three runs (two earned) and threw 118 pitches. It is the latter number that is alarming, for that’s 571 pitches over 32 ¹/₃ innings in Syndergaard’s last six starts — an average of 17.7 per inning that would equate to the second most in the NL among qualified starters if extrapolated over the full season. The implications are obviously not good though the toughness is an obvious attribute.
And James Loney grinded through a two-out, 10-pitch walk to extend the seventh inning and allow Walker to come up against Boone Logan, the former Yankee.
“That’s why [Walker] hit the home run,” Loney, generally soft spoken and reserved, joked loudly. But he wasn’t joking when asked about the mindset that allows pro athletes to persevere.
“I think it comes pretty naturally, to tell you the truth,” said Loney, an 11-year veteran. “If you’re in the big leagues, you feel like you belong and you’re going to do something positive.
“When you lose some games in a row, you’re pretty sure it’s going to turn pretty soon. I’ve been through a lot worse than this. I’ve played on teams that have lost 11 or 12 straight.
“Still, this does give you a lot of energy.”
A year ago, a fairy tale followed July 31.
Now, well, let’s not hope for too much. Nevertheless, the hunt for a Blue and Orange October might have begun again right here