PHILADELPHIA -- Some of them ran in a line, one behind the other. Others filtered out of Citizens Bank Park's visiting clubhouse alone, following the noise of a screaming multitude.Eventually, nearly every Mets player made it back onto the field, where thousands of fans remained following their 5-3 win Saturday over
PHILADELPHIA -- Some of them ran in a line, one behind the other. Others filtered out of Citizens Bank Park's visiting clubhouse alone, following the noise of a screaming multitude.
Eventually, nearly every Mets player made it back onto the field, where thousands of fans remained following their 5-3 win Saturday over the Phillies. The Mets sprinted in front of them, offering high-fives. They took photos and videos to capture the moment, their victory clinching home-field advantage in the National League Wild Card Game.
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It was a scene reminiscent of last year's celebrations in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Chicago, all of those locations far from New York. The Mets will have a chance to change that trend Wednesday in a Wild Card Game against either the Cardinals or Giants.
"We want to have one in front of them," manager Terry Collins said. "They certainly deserve to be a part of it."
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Home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game was so important to the Mets that, as recently as this week, they considered using their top starting pitcher to deploy it. That became unnecessary when Saturday's win clinched a home game, allowing them to skip Noah Syndergaard's final regular-season start. Syndergaard will instead throw a bullpen session Sunday, before returning to start a win-or-go-home game in Queens.
"It's like every little kid's dream come true to pitch in that high-stakes game," Syndergaard said. "I'll embrace it."
Syndergaard will also watch Sunday's proceedings with interest. The Giants will enter the regular season's final day with a one-game lead over the Cardinals, meaning a San Francisco win or a St. Louis loss will have the Giants chartering a flight to New York. But if the Cardinals win and the Giants lose, those two teams will play a 163rd game on Monday in St. Louis for the right to play at Citi Field.
The Mets have already clinched a better record than the Cardinals, who cannot make the postseason without help. Because the Mets also hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Giants, they are assured of hosting the Wild Card Game even if San Francisco finishes with the same record as them. Whoever wins Wednesday will move on to face the Cubs in a best-of-five Division Series, beginning Friday at Wrigley Field.
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"Home field means a lot," said outfielder Jay Bruce, whose Reds lost the 2013 Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh. "I think home field means a whole lot. …One play, one pitch can change the whole outlook of the whole thing. I think we have a whole group of guys that actually are going to be ready for it."
The Mets' success against both potential opponents is mixed. They finished 4-3 versus the Giants and 3-3 against the Cardinals, playing their last game against either team on Aug. 25. Since that time, the Mets have transformed, relying on regular contributions from unlikely sources.
In either case, the Mets will face a top arm in the Wild Card Game, with San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner and St. Louis' Carlos Martínez each lined up for Wednesday. But the Mets have an All-Star of their own in Syndergaard, not to mention the obvious: a home game in front of more than 40,000 hyper fans at Citi Field.
"We've got great fans and our fans create energy," Collins said. "That's why when you come into New York City as a visitor, the energy in those ballparks -- be it Yankee Stadium or Citi Field -- you want to win. That's why teams play so well when they come into New York. But our fans are behind us. We're really excited to give them a game."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.