(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Build a team and they will come to Citi Field. And for three evenings in Flushing New York this weekend the six-year home for the New York Mets reopened because first place was on the line. The Mets did their part for fans by completing the three-game sweep over the Washington Nationals Sunday evening.
Noah Syndergaard tossed 8.0 innings in earning his sixth win, 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last nine starts. Newcomer Tyler Clipper got his first save as a Met, and the home run balls came at the right time.
Every pitch meant the Mets were getting closer to first place and fans knew the significance, so did Syndergaard who once again threw a lot of first pitch strikes. The 22-year old righthander is playing a major role in this rebuilding process as the Mets hit the road for six games with the Marlins and Tampa Bay.
But this momentum has to continue on the road. New York is 38-18 at Citi Field and on the road a 17-32 team ,which is quite a disparity.So after this impresisve sweep and moving to the top of their division, can fans believe that this is the year the Mets can overcome the obstacles of continued disappointment?
The buzz was in the ballpark and they finally see that their time is here.
“It’s so much fun being a Met right now,” Syndergaard said. “We have a lot of momentum going into the next series. Its awesome listening to the fans. It gets the adrenaline going and I’m looking forward for things to come.”
And when the closing bell came at 10:52 PM, the Mets with their 5-2 win were tied for first place with the Nationals in the National League east, and yes, on top or tied for the division lead in early August. They have not been this close to the top since September 19, 2008,the last year baseball was played at Shea Stadium where special moments were meant to be.
“This is my first experience with a New York crowd and the energy they bring to the ballpark is unbelieveable,” manager Terry Collins said. “What they have done, I’ll tell you if we continue this they’re going to help a great deal to keep this club energized through the next two months.”
Sunday night it was so much like that magical championship year of 1969, the Willie Mays Mets debut and NL pennant of 1973, their greatest and world championship team of 1986. And Citi Field resembled crowds of the 2000 NL championship team that lost to the cross-town Yankees in the Subway World Series.
There was that euphoria of 2006, when Endy Chavez made that marvelous catch over the left field fence in the NL championship series against the Cardinals and falling short one game for the pennant.
“Except for Opening Days I never was on the field with all the excitement and energy from the fans here,” commented Ruben Tejada who has had his ups and downs with the fans.
And they have a new cult hero, Wilmer Flores, who thought he was not a Met before the trading deadline this week. Flores teared when he took his position at second base Wednesday night and Sunday night in the eighth inning, when he pinch hit and hit a double to deep left the fans once again erupted.
This is now. Mets fans have waited and after six miserable losing seasons the rebuilding process is showing results. For the moment, the Mets share first place and a week ago, even as of this past Thursday, with a heart breaking loss to the Padres, that seemed hard to say.
However, Lucas Duda has gone on a home run tear. He hit his 21st of the season, his ninth in the last ten games. Curtis Granderson hit another one and so did Daniel Murphy. The managers, scouts and baseball people in general talk about the young Mets pitching and how the offense has not cooperated, and that was why first place at Citi Field seemed difficult to accomplish when the Nationals and Mets met again Friday night.
But GM Sandy Alderson, who was public enemy number one with the fans, went to work. He made some moves and prior to the trading deadline obtained Yoeinis Cespedes who got his first hit as a Met in the third inning.
He reinforced the bullpen, and Tyler Clipper came in at the right time and closed the game against his former team. And he acquired two veterans, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson that changed the complexion of a roster and offered more options for the manager Terry Collins, including the excitement of starting Michael Conforto the 2014 first round pick.
When Clipper got the final outs in the ninth inning the 35,374 still in their seats chanted “We Want First Place.” And after the Granderson, Murphy and Duda home runs in the third inning, it was the first time the Mets hit three in an inning since June 7, 2007 against the Phillies.
“We erupted on the bench after those home runs and the crowd helped,” said Tejada.
Citi Field was inaugurated with a first place Mets’ team in early August. Now these fans who have been through the frustrations of six straight losing seasons, are looking for the same results when the team returns home next Monday night when they oppose the Colorado Rockies.
“They’re into it more than I’ve ever seen before,” Clipper said, “and rightfully so. We’ve got an exciting club here and we’re playing well.”