PHILADELPHIA -- The Mets' fourth major celebration in two years was in its final moments Saturday when Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, two of the primary reasons behind this party, stood in one corner of the clubhouse taking a selfie.Halfway across the room, José Reyes discussed the difference between this
PHILADELPHIA -- The Mets' fourth major celebration in two years was in its final moments Saturday when Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, two of the primary reasons behind this party, stood in one corner of the clubhouse taking a selfie.
Halfway across the room, José Reyes discussed the difference between this team and the 2006 Mets. Near him, James Loney had just finished talking about his decisive homer in the Mets' 5-3 win over the Phillies, which clinched home-field advantage in the National League Wild Card Game. Jay Bruce harkened back to his playoff days in Cincinnati.
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:: NL Wild Card: Giants vs. Mets coverage ::None of those players were here in April, when the Mets began their NL pennant defense amid outsized expectations. But they all became primary reasons why, wearing ski masks and newly-printed T-shirts, the Mets on Saturday managed to secure their second consecutive postseason berth. The Mets will face the Giants on Wednesday at Citi Field, with Noah Syndergaard slated to start against Madison Bumgarner. ESPN will carry the game live at 8 p.m. ET.
"We never gave up," Reyes said. "We never doubted with the talent that we have in this locker room."
By the time the Mets took the field in Philadelphia, winning thanks to Bartolo Colon's five strong innings, Loney's two-run homer and various other contributions, their place in October already seemed secure. Waking up two games under .500 on Aug. 20, the Mets entered Saturday's play with Major League Baseball's best record since that time. Friday, they clinched at least a Game 163. Saturday, they removed any lingering doubt, securing both a Wild Card berth and home-field advantage for that game.
In a vacuum, this might seem unsurprising; after all, the Mets made the World Series last year stocked with starting pitchers only entering their primes.
In reality, their path was significantly more difficult. At the start of their NL pennant defense, the Mets found themselves crushed under the weight of outsized expectations, their fairy tale 2015 season swirling into thoughts of bigger and better things. By May, health issues were seizing them. Season-ending surgeries would eventually claim three-fifths of their vaunted rotation and half their starting infield. Less serious injuries would affect nearly every regular member of their roster.
But the Mets plugged holes in unorthodox ways. They signed Reyes off a suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence Policy, despite doubts that he would ever be productive on the diamond again. They called up T.J. Rivera, who singled home their first run Saturday, ignoring the undrafted free agent's complete lack of pedigree. They asked Lugo, a 34th-round Draft pick who held a 6.50 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas, to start critical games for them down the stretch.
"We just kept saying to each other, 'Hang around and we've got a shot,'" assistant general manager John Ricco said. "And that's what we did."
"Fortunately, we had something in reserve," GM Sandy Alderson said, "as unlikely as that might have been."
And so a somewhat anonymous group of Mets stood in the center of their clubhouse late Saturday afternoon, choreographing a celebration that has become familiar over the past 13 months. They targeted manager Terry Collins, creeping up behind him to spray a dozen bottles on him at once. They set their sights on Syndergaard to repeat the process.
"It's been a whirlwind," Syndergaard said, his long blond hair soaked through with champagne.
On and on the procession went, until the Mets decided to spill outside and thank their fans. Then they came back inside and celebrated some more, took a few more pictures, before showering, changing, and boarding a bus for their hotel.
It was professional, almost subdued, for a team with greater goals in mind. But it was a celebration the Mets all felt they deserved.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.