Had Carlos Gomez’s medical report turned out different three years ago, Wilmer Flores might not have found himself in the position he did on Sunday: circling the bases at Citi Field after hitting a game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2.
In fact, he might even have been wearing a Brewers uniform.
One of the enduring images of the Mets’ 2015 season was that of Flores weeping on the field during a late-July game against the San Diego Padres because of reports that he had been traded to the Brewers in exchange for Gomez. The fans at Citi Field, most of whom had seen the same reports on social media, gave Flores a standing ovation. It was quite the emotional send-off.
It was not to be, of course. The trade fell apart because of the Mets’ concerns over the condition of Gomez’s hip, and two nights later, almost as though in celebration, Flores hit the first walk-off homer of his career.
Fast-forward to a frigid Sunday in Queens, where the Mets, despite getting a brilliant start from Noah Syndergaard, were struggling to break a tie against the Brewers and reliever Matt Albers in the ninth inning.
Up came Flores, who had gone hitless in three unimpressive at-bats earlier in the game. But now, with two out, no runners on base and a 1-2 count, Flores got a pitch from Albers that was intended to be on the outer half of the plate but leaked back toward the middle.
Flores turned on the pitch and rifled a line drive into the left-field seats. The home run, his second of the season (but the third game-winner of his career), ended the Mets’ losing streak at one game and gave them a 12-2 record, best in the National League and second over all to the Boston Red Sox (13-2).
“That was a great win,” said Syndergaard, who had to settle for a no-decision despite allowing just two hits and striking out 11 in five and one-third innings. “And this is a great team to be a part of. We pick up one another.”
Flores’s home run picked up the slack for a couple of his teammates, and even, to some extent, his manager, Mickey Callaway, who to this point in the season had been nearly flawless in his decision-making.
But Callaway’s decision to use Jay Bruce to pinch-hit for catcher Tomas Nido with runners on second and third in the fifth inning was a head-scratcher — it was a foregone conclusion the Brewers would walk Bruce to load the bases for Syndergaard, and because of the injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, Jose Lobaton was the only other catcher on the roster — as was his decision to allow Syndergaard to bat for himself.
When Syndergaard, swinging at the first pitch, popped out harmlessly to the infield, it appeared Callaway’s honeymoon period might be nearing its end. His decision to put in Robert Gsellman in place of Syndergaard, who had struck out eight consecutive Brewers at one point in the game, two batters into the next inning because he had thrown 101 pitches, did not help matters. Some shoddy play was also a factor, as the Brewers took a 2-1 lead when Amed Rosario’s wild throw escaped Flores at first base later in the inning.
“It was cold out there,” Flores said. “But I think I should have made that play.”
Brandon Nimmo hit a solo home run to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, but three Brewers relievers held the Mets hitless until Flores came to the plate in the ninth.
“I was definitely ready for him,” Flores said of Albers, whom he had faced only one time previously. “I struggled in my first three at-bats and I just wanted to hit the ball hard.”
That he did, hard enough to overcome the 19-mile-per-hour winds and far enough to earn him a freezing Gatorade bath from his teammate Yoenis Cespedes.
“I told him no,” a still-shivering Flores said. “But he did it anyway.”
Asked if anything about the game reminded him of 2015, Flores chose to recall not his near heartbreak but rather the way that season ended, with the Mets in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
“This team feels a lot like that one,” he said. “This whole lineup can score runs. Really, anybody can be a hero here.”
Published at Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:32:44 +0000