MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals

The Best Moments of David Wright’s “Comeback”

David Wright has been a Met for exactly my adult life—he was drafted the same year I went to college, and had established himself as a major league star by the time I graduated. He’s been the one constant with Mets baseball of this era, the homegrown star that stayed, the greatest player in franchise history, the bright spot of a lot of bad baseball. Except starting in April 2015, he wasn’t that constant anymore, right as the Mets started their ascent back into relevance. Wright missed four months in 2015 with the discovery of a potentially career-ending back condition after he pulled a hamstring stealing second base in an early-season tilt against the Phillies. Nobody had any clue how or how much he would play upon his return, or if there were any more David Wright moments to come …

August 24, 2015, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA: Coming out of a furious month-long assault on the NL East, Terry Collins sent Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom to the mound—and he was awful, coughing up three runs in the first, before ultimately getting chased in the third after giving up a total of seven runs. (Such ended the Jacob deGrom Cy Young candidacy.)

But even deGrom took second billing here, because this was Wright’s comeback game. I am overly sentimental, so I traveled over to Citizens Bank to take in the return in-person. As has tended to happen in Philly in the past few years, the crowd had quite a few Mets partisans. Wright took two pitches, and then clobbered a monster home run into the second deck in left. Now David Wright was really back. The Mets would ultimately set the franchise single-game home run record and win 16-9.

September 7, 2015, Nationals Park, Washington, DC: On Labor Day, the Mets—having just been walked off twice by the Marlins–marched into Washington holding a lead in the division that was down to four from six and a half just a week prior. The Nationals dreamed of doing what the Mets had done in July at Citi Field, essentially wiping out a division lead with a sweep. The Nats dropped five runs on Jon Niese, but ace Max Scherzer coughed up the lead. With runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, Wright singled home the go-ahead run over shortstop.

Yet that’s not the David Wright moment from this game that strikes a chord. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, blasted a double off the wall in right-center. Wright, who hadn’t been running often or well since his return, dashed around to try to score from first. After a nifty slide, Wright made an exaggerated safe motion. When the umpire agreed, Wright unleashed a mammoth fist pump that mirrored the emotions of every Mets fan watching, and will be in every Mets and Wright highlight film until the end of time. The run didn’t end up mattering, but who cares? The Mets would go on to sweep the series, and the 2015 NL East race—and Washington’s season–was effectively over.

October 9, 2015, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA: The opener of the NLDS was on paper a premiere pitching matchup of Jacob deGrom vs. Clayton Kershaw, and boy did it ever deliver. The Mets staked deGrom to a 1-0 lead in the fourth, and the lead held into the top of the seventh. Kershaw, magnificent as always through six, walked the bases loaded in front of Wright with two outs. Embattled Dodger manager Don Mattingly lifted the best pitcher in baseball for flamethrowing reliever Pedro Baez—certainly a defensible call given Kershaw was going through the order for the fourth time at 113 pitches and Mattingly picked up the platoon edge along the way. But among the 13 strikeouts Kershaw had racked up were two on Wright, and Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw.

David Wright had not appeared in a playoff game since 2006, when the Mets went out only one hit away from the World Series. All along, from the debacles of 2007 and 2008 to the rebuilding period of the early-2010s, Wright had talked about returning the Mets to the playoffs and making new playoff memories. This was finally the chance, the team, the time. Wright worked a 3-2 count and then lined a single past Howie Kendrick to plate two insurance runs–runs that spelled the final outcome. Another huge fist pump occurred when Wright reached first base. As a result, Don Mattingly is now the manager of the Florida Marlins, so one can only assume this event completely destroyed him.

October 30, 2015, Citi Field, Flushing, Queens, NY: Coming out of two disastrous outings in Kansas City, the Mets returned to Queens in the worst possible position, spotting a dangerous Royals team two games. Despite that, the atmosphere in Citi Field was electric for the stadium’s first World Series game. Noah Syndergaard controversially launched the first pitch of the game over Alcides Escobar’s head. Mets fans still believed.

The Royals would score first, because of course they did. Curtis Granderson reached on an infield single. David Wright took a mighty cut on a Yordano Ventura fastball and blasted it into the seats in left. I was at this game too, and it was the loudest I’ve ever heard Citi Field. The 2015 World Series went completely off a cliff Wile E. Coyote-style in Games 4 and 5, but for one night, the Mets made World Series magic behind David Wright.

May 21, 2016, Citi Field, Flushing, Queens, NY: Wright, struggling to stay healthy enough in the lineup, was scratched in two of the four games prior to this. He was hitting only .222/.359/.393 coming into the day, but the hitting seemed like a minor issue, between the health and the awful defense at third. The Brewers scored four early off a scuffling deGrom, and while the Mets clawed their way back into a tie game, Wright wasn’t really involved in the offensive output.

The Mets loaded the bases in front of Wright in the bottom of the ninth. Brewers reliever Michael Blazek was still wild, and spotted Wright a 3-0 count. Blazek threw a fastball down the heart of the plate. Given the game situation, Wright should’ve been taking all the way. Wright swung. All [ed. note: former football player] Kirk Nieuwenhuis could do in center was watch it fall for a walkoff single.

I don’t know how much baseball David Wright has left, let alone how much good baseball will be in there. I don’t think David Wright or the Mets know either. I do know that Wright has packed a boatload of great memories into his comeback. And like my colleague Erik Malinowski, even if the end is near, I think I’m okay with that.

Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

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