NEW YORK -- Had David Wright glanced into the Citi Field dugout, or at third-base coach Tim Teufel down the line, he would have seen that his superiors were freeing him to swing away. The Mets were stuck in a tie game, had been for most of Saturday, but Wright was batting with a 3-0 count and every base occupied. Fearing the take sign, he just didn't look.
Wright was also stuck in 3-for-31 slump, striking out roughly one out of every two trips to the plate, even eliciting a smattering of boos following his third at-bat Saturday. He knew that his best chance to shove all of that away, if only for a day, might well be a 3-0 fastball. So Wright dug in, leering at the pitcher, then laced Michael Blazek's obligatory heater into right-center field for a walk-off single.
"It seems like those situations find you when you're not feeling your best at the plate," Wright said in the aftermath of the Mets' 5-4 win over the Brewers. "Fortunately, for me, I was able to lock it in for one at-bat."
To say that Wright has not been feeling his best would be a tremendous understatement. Statistically the most accomplished hitter in franchise history, Wright has been a shell of his former self for most of the past two seasons, a career-threatening spinal stenosis condition robbing him of consistent success. A slow start this year has again made his back a source of constant conversation. Fans have called for Wright to drop from second or third in the lineup to sixth or seventh. Some have wondered aloud if a better option does not exist elsewhere in the organization.
Through it all, Wright has gritted his teeth and spent hours every day on physical therapy and stretching programs, readying himself as comprehensively as possible. That results have largely escaped him has been vexing for Wright.
Because his teammates have witnessed all of this, it was only natural that Wright's walk-off hit made the dugout erupt into elation. In the clubhouse, Jacob deGrom watched on television, preparing his celebration even before Wright swung. On the field, Yoenis Cespedes raced from the top of the dugout to first base, beating his teammate there. At Wright's locker several minutes later, Asdrubal Cabrera chanted, "Cap-i-tan! Cap-i-tan!" stressing the last syllable in a Venezuelan accent.
"I don't think it's relief," said Wright, who passed Kevin McReynolds for the most walk-off RBIs (nine) in franchise history. "It's excitement. To see the way the guys reacted, the coaches reacted, obviously it made me feel good because I've been struggling."
Saturday aside, the future remains unclear for Wright. He is still capable only of playing in three out of every four games. His fielding at third base has been middling at best, his overall offensive game none too impressive.
But the Mets' first walk-off win of the season at least bought some much-needed confidence for one of New York's most important players.
"None of us realize what's going to happen," manager Terry Collins said. "Will David Wright be the David Wright of five or six years ago? Probably not. But he's still a great player. He's still a very, very good player. And you know what? He's going to show it."