By Joe Rini
Fans of the Mets entered September hoping to exorcise the ghosts of September pasts, as in the collapses 2007 and 2008. Yet, after two walk-off losses in Miami this weekend to the Marlins, where the only thing missing seemed to be Tom Glavine allowing seven opening inning runs, fans of the Amazins could be excused for a dreading sense of deja vu as the team labored to Washington for a three game series against the suddenly surging Nationals who had sliced the Mets lead in the standings to four games.
Fortunately for the Mets and their fans, the ghosts must’ve decided to take in the sights at the Smithsonian on Monday and Tuesday, as the Mets won two stunning come from behind victories over the Nationals to boost their lead in the standings back to six games as they try for a sweep on Wednesday. On Monday, the maligned Mets bullpen pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball and the offense overcame Max Scherzer and the Nationals 8-5. On Tuesday, the Nationals tormented Matt Harvey for seven runs and lead 7-1 before an unlikely six run Mets rally tied it in the seventh inning before Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ pinch hit eighth inning homerun versus Jonathan Papelbon provided the margin of victory, 8-7, in what may have been one of the most dramatic regular season wins in team history.
For veteran players acquired from other teams, this is their first pennant race wearing the orange and blue uniform while for most of the younger Mets, this is their first pennant race, period. The Rockland County Times had a chance to chat with players on both sides of the scale when I chatted with Curtis Granderson and Reuben Tejada on August 29 at Citi Field before their game against the Boston Red Sox.
Granderson, whose resume boasts four post-season appearances with the Tigers and Yankees, said he tries to remind the younger players, “To take each series as it comes…take no one for granted.” Also, it’s important not to fall for the “hype” and to keep working hard.
At 26 years old, Tejada, already in his sixth season with the Mets, has had a bounce back season. When asked which veterans have been particularly helpful to him, he cited Bartolo Colon, Juan Uribe, and Yoenis Cespedes, describing them as good people and good teammates. For Tejada, these players have been instrumental in helping him prepare for games better as well as handle the ups and downs of the game. Interestingly, he didn’t necessarily agree with the statement that a player like Cespedes reduces the pressure on someone like him in the lineup because to Tejada, everyone has a role to support the team.
Whether he takes pressure off the rest of the lineup or not, the acquisition of Cespedes continues to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Mets. Besides his heroics on Tuesday with his three run seventh inning double, the Cuban born outfielder has hit .307 with 13 homers and 34 RBI in just 35 games since being acquired from Detroit. Additionally, thanks to an amendment to Cespedes’ current contract, the Mets will have a better chance to resign him as free agent in the off-season.
In the days leading to his start on Tuesday, controversy and recriminations swirled around the Mets after remarks by Matt Harvey and his agent Scott Boras suggested that Harvey would not pitch in the postseason due to innings limits post-Tommy John surgery. Eventually, Harvey did write in “The Players’ Tribune” that he would pitch in the post-season although he could be battling fatigue and it is expected the righthander will probably skip some starts down the stretch…and of course, the Mets have to clinch a post-season berth, first.