Meet the best! Mets win first East title since '06
CINCINNATI -- Since 11:43 p.m. ET on Oct. 19, 2006, the moment that Adam Wainwright's curveball dropped into Yadier Molina's glove and the Cardinals advanced to the World Series, the Mets began yearning for this. Three thousand, two hundred and sixty-four days passed between champagne baths for the Mets, longer than all but three big league teams. They lost their way at times; their photo albums depicted an historic collapse, then a more modest one, then a half-dozen consecutive losing seasons.
Now this. Lucas Duda hit a grand slam in the first inning Saturday at Great American Ball Park and the Mets never looked back, winning a 10-2 game over the Reds to clinch their first NL East title and playoff berth since 2006. Matt Harvey pitched into the seventh, David Wright iced things with a late three-run homer and the bullpen did the rest, inciting a jubilee in the visiting clubhouse.
"I can't be more excited or more proud to wear the orange and blue," Wright said. "I bleed orange and blue. To be able to celebrate with these fans, this city, this team, is a privilege."
The Mets are a half-game ahead of the Dodgers for home-field advantage in the NL Division Series, should L.A. clinch the NL West.
Only the Blue Jays, Mariners, Marlins and Astros had gone longer without a playoff berth. The Mets felt it from deep within, even as their roster turned over and only Wright remained from the 2006 team. They changed their manager and their general manager, the bulk of their field staff and front office. They made signings and trades, culminating with their acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes 13 minutes before the July 31 non-waiver Deadline. Days later, they chased down the Nationals.
Now they are partying. Duda set the first streamers airborne with his grand slam off Reds starter John Lamb, belting it a few paces shy of the Ohio River. Curtis Granderson also homered, Michael Cuddyer hit a two-run double and Harvey raced past his faux season innings total of 180, delivering 6 2/3 more and allowing just two runs.
"We knew we wanted to win this game," Harvey said. "We didn't want to wait until tomorrow. We didn't want to wait until Philadelphia. This game was probably the most important game of the year."
Along the way, the Mets moved into a virtual tie for home-field advantage with the Dodgers, their likely NL Division Series opponent. Only seven games stand between the Mets and their first postseason moments since the 2006 NL Championship Series, which ended with Wainwright's strike-three curveball to Carlos Beltran.
"It's gratifying to see it come together," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "You never quite know when it's going to happen. But you have to have faith."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early on top: Duda made certain there would be no drama in this one, jacking a 91-mph Lamb fastball into the right-field seats for his third homer and 10th RBI in two games. Catching fire in Cincinnati, Duda has reached base safely in 11 of his last 16 plate appearances, with three homers, three doubles and five walks.
"He got all of that one," Lamb said of Duda's long ball. "That's the pitch that you have to get the ball over the plate for a strike. I did that, and he obviously put that ball pretty far down the right-field line."
De Jesus doubles down: It was a 5-0 game already when the Reds rallied in the second inning. Following two singles against Harvey, Ivan De Jesus Jr. went to the opposite field when he lined a two-run double into the right-field corner that scored Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. A Tucker Barnhart single gave Cincinnati runners on second and third with one out, but Harvey escaped without further damage. De Jesus also hit a two-out double in the sixth inning.
The Dark Knight clinches: Blowing past 180 innings and not stopping until the seventh, Harvey gave up his only two runs on De Jesus' second-inning double. Despite prevailing thoughts that he would match the five innings he pitched in his last start, or perhaps go even shorter, Harvey threw 6 2/3 innings to increase his season total to 183 1/3. As he walked off the field, he received a standing ovation from a sizeable pocket of Mets fans chanting his name.
"He came to me the other day and he said, 'I'm pitching. I want to throw at least 100 pitches,'" Mets manager Terry Collins said. "'Whatever it takes.'" More >
Murphy denied: The Mets already had their two homers and Daniel Murphy seemed poised for the team's third leading off the top of the fifth. Murphy lifted a drive to center field, but Jason Bourgeois timed his leaping attempt perfectly and caught the ball above the top of the fence to take away the homer. Murphy added some memorable defense of his own in the bottom of the inning, combining on a nifty double play with shortstop Wilmer Flores, who -- it all comes full circle -- added a basket catch on Bourgeois' popup in the seventh as Cincinnati dropped its seventh game in a row.
"It was phenomenal," Price said. "It's funny what you pull out of some of these losses. You find these moments in the game. [People say], 'What does it matter? Your team lost.' That's what we have to look to at this point in time. We have to find our moments in the games that we don't win, where we find some sense of satisfaction in individual performance."
"I'm so happy for our fans. I'm so proud of Sandy Alderson and the front office staff -- Terry, all the coaches, the players in this room, they played their hearts out. They went out every day and worked hard. Terry said, 'That's all I ever ask of you guys, go out there and work hard,' and they worked hard for them. It's a great accomplishment. Hopefully a lot more to go." -- Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon
LAMB PULLED EARLY
Saturday's two-inning start was the shortest of Lamb's brief career. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter while the Reds were challenging Harvey in the bottom of the second inning. Price made the move as Lamb already had 62 pitches.
"It wasn't getting any better," Price said. "It's one of the things as a young pitcher -- you have to find a way to keep yourself in the ballgame. It was a seven-inning bullpen effort right there. … The young guys, as they will learn here, you have to find a way to keep yourself in that game for just one more inning, whatever it is, a third inning, a fourth inning or fifth inning, just to take that load off the bullpen. We're a work in progress, but we have to take more steps in the right direction."
Lamb allowed five earned runs and three hits, with two walks and four strikeouts over his two innings.
Mets: Sunday's hangover lineup should include few regulars outside of starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, who will be pitching on 12 days' rest. The Mets will wrap up their series with a 1:10 p.m. ET game in Cincinnati before basking in their division title during an off-day Monday in Philadelphia.
Reds: Keyvius Sampson is coming off a good start on Tuesday in St. Louis and will try for another nice outing on Sunday vs. New York. Sampson allowed one run and scattered four hits in a five-inning no-decision before the Reds took a 3-1 los to the Cardinals.
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