(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Wednesday night at Citi Field, Wilmer Flores was at shortstop and was in tears because he thought the New York Mets had him as one of the players in a trade that would have sent him to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. Like a script that could not be better, and two nights later he was the hero at Citi Field.
Flores got his first career walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning that paved the way for a Mets 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals. And of course the script could not have been better because Flores, who became a favorite Wednesday night, now has a slogan “Go with the Flow.”
He looked like a devastated fighter after a tough unanimous decision loss when he was wiping those tears. And it was said that tears can be a part of baseball. There were no tears Friday night, instead it was jubilation for Flores and knowing that a tense trading deadline is over and he is a still a part of a pennant race in Flushing.
Whoever wrote this script is sure to get the accolades. More importantly, the Mets won an important game that put them within two games of the first place Nationals in the National League East.
“Two days ago,” said Flores, “there were a lot of phone calls and a lot going on. That’s in the past. You’ve got to play tomorrow. That’s it. It’s out my mind.”
But two days ago, the script was different. It was bitter and it caught the emotions also of Mets fans. Thursday afternoon manager Terry Collins sat Flores to collect his thoughts and the ramifications of a trade that wasn’t was still a topic of conversation.
Friday night, Flores heard 36,184 fans cheering and standing when he took the field. And for his first at bat in the second inning, when he hit a ground ball out to second, they cheered. Flores was a Met and not a Bernie Brewer and that was what Flores always wanted.
And the script was perfect because it was Flores who drove in both of the Mets runs. Yes, a player who was booed two months ago by the Citi Field faithful, an infielder who tried to handle the shortstop position but made many a costly error and was struggling at the plate, is now “Go With The Flow.”
The walk-off hit and win for the Mets also came at the end of a week that had another script at Citi Field, and of course Flores was the main storyline. In between was the second suspension of pitcher Jenrry Mejia for PED use, the trades and additions of pitcher Tyler Clippard, plus infielders Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.
There was the Flores trade that wasn’t and the drama that unfolded. And Thursday afternoon, there were two rain delays and within one out of a win against San Diego, but it was a loss because closer Jeurys Familia gave up the go ahead home run ball to Justin Upton.
Hours before game time, Flores was still at Citi Field because the Mets acquired all-star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for two minor league pitchers. So the crowd was electric because they knew a quality hitter was on the way, and they also were a part of a first place three-game series with the Nationals with Matt Harvey on the mound.
Flores said about the crowd, “I was surprised. Those guys are great. They cheered every time I was going to hit and it felt good.” He has three walk-off runs batted in this season that are tied for most in the major leagues with Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs.
Collins was elated. His team got a win because starter Matt Harvey had the fastball going and retired the first 16 Nationals. The bullpen stayed tough and threw four scoreless innings, more importantly it was a win the Mets needed to make this series that more interesting the next two nights.
But it was Flores, and the script that had Collins talking. And in six years the manager has not seen a Citi Field Crowd as electric as this one, with the exception of the Johan Santana no-hitter and the 20th win for pitcher R.A. Dickey.
“New York fans take a lot of criticism for being tough,” Collins said. “They take a lot of heat about how hard they are on people.. What they did for Wilmer Flores tonight, you’re not going to find that in a lot of places. That is the most respectful way to handle a situation that these fans can possibly come up with.”
And about that ending of the script, with possibly more to come from Flores, Collins said to the media: “You can’t write that. You guys couldn’t come up with that and you’re good. But that’s unbelievable.”
“He’s a really good teammate. After that situation the other night he feels happy. I feel happy for him,:” said Ruben Tejada who has known Flores before he signed with the Mets. The two were once again manning shortstop and second base Friday night.
Yes, Wilmer Flores could not have come up with a better script after that 1-1 fastball off Felipe Rivero went over the left-center field fence for the win. But this is about playing baseball in New York and starting Saturday Yoenis Cespedes will hear from those same fans and hopefully start a similar script of his own.
However for the moment and deservingly so, the town belongs to Wilmer Flores, and rest assured he is still a major part of the New York Mets plans to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006.