Ripped shirts & walk-offs: Mets' best wins of '19

November 27th, 2019

NEW YORK -- If nothing else, the Mets’ 2019 season offered an uncommon collection of thrills. Seemingly buried in mid-July, the Mets rallied back to life over the ensuing month, playing meaningful games in September for the first time since 2016.

Their goal, of course, has long been meaningful games in October, and in that regard, the team fell short. But the Mets are confident the experience they gained down the stretch will help them going forward. Here is a look at exactly what they accomplished in their five best team wins of 2019:

This was the night when the masses started to believe. Winning game after game may have propelled the Mets back into contention, but rarely during their streak had the Mets won like this. Down three runs entering the bottom of the ninth, the Mets tied things on a Todd Frazier three-run homer, then won it on a Michael Conforto walk-off single.

As Conforto ran around the infield in celebration, Pete Alonso wrapped him in a bear hug and ripped off his jersey, in what became one of the enduring images of the Mets’ season. It was the first of several uniform-ripping celebrations down the stretch for the Mets, who spent the better part of a month floating through rarified air. Many teams talk about their never-quit attitude. For two months, the Mets lived it, gaining the type of positive experience that they can carry into 2020.

For the Mets to win 15 of 16 during their best stretch of the season, unusual things needed to happen. Things like J.D. Davis and Wilson Ramos -- on his birthday, no less -- hitting back-to-back homers off Patrick Corbin, one of the league’s better lefty starters, to erase a deficit in a key August showdown. Things like light-hitting backup infielder Luis Guillorme bashing his first career home run in the eighth inning to tie the game again, allowing Davis to win it with a go-ahead sacrifice fly.

The victory was the Mets’ 15th in 16 games and was, in retrospect, the emotional high point of their season.

This one would have ranked higher had the Mets still been in contention at the time. As it was, they entered the season’s final day locked into third place, facing a Braves team that was similarly set as the National League’s second seed.

Those in attendance wouldn’t have known it. Still buzzing from Alonso’s Major League rookie record-breaking 53rd homer the night before, fans offered plenty of enthusiasm during a Sunday matinee. As the game ticked into the ninth inning, then the 10th, then the 11th, the most pressing question was when -- or if -- Dominic Smith might enter. Smith had spent the previous nine weeks rehabbing a stress fracture in his left foot. The Mets activated him earlier in the season’s final week, but they didn’t use him; manager Mickey Callaway’s desire to give Alonso as many at-bats as possible meant risking having the season expire with Smith on the bench.

Finally, in the top of the 11th, Smith entered as the Braves scored two runs to take the lead. The timing couldn’t have been better. In the bottom of the inning, he hit a walk-off, three-run homer to offer the Mets a consolation prize heading into a long winter.

Having spent the better part of a month as the hottest team in baseball, the Mets were at risk of returning to normalcy when they delved into their most difficult schedule patch of the season: 25 consecutive games against the contending Indians, Braves, Cubs, Nationals, Phillies, D-backs and Dodgers. On cue, the Mets found themselves down a run in the 10th inning of the second game of that stretch.

That’s when the script changed. After the tying run scored on a fielder’s choice, J.D. Davis one-hopped a walk-off single off the left-field fence. The win gave the Mets further evidence of their ability to compete, which should color a good number of their offseason decisions.

This was how the Mets drew it up during a flashy offseason. Jacob deGrom delivered six shutout innings to outpitch Max Scherzer. Robinson Canó homered and made a strong defensive play. Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia and Edwin Díaz combined for three perfect innings of relief. The Mets’ Opening Day win over the Nationals vindicated much of the work general manager Brodie Van Wagenen did from November through February, albeit in the smallest possible sample size.

Van Wagenen will work to improve the Mets again this winter, but if they are to transform into a playoff team, they’ll need these sorts of contributions from Canó, Familia and Díaz. None of those three delivered many bright moments after Opening Day, but they will all be back in 2020.