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Flores' walk-off in 10th caps Mets' emotional day

GM Alderson announced a leave of absence prior to Tuesday's game
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- The careers of some Mets, more than others, will always be intertwined with that of Sandy Alderson. Zack Wheeler's life flipped upside down when Alderson made him the first significant acquisition of his tenure as general manager back in 2011. Yoenis Cespedes represented one of the largest risks that Alderson took. Brandon Nimmo became one of the boldest Draft choices in franchise history. All those players owe some significant portion of their career arcs to Alderson.

Then there is Wilmer Flores, whose walk-off single in the 10th inning Tuesday gave the Mets a 4-3 win over the Pirates, hours after Alderson announced he is taking a leave of absence as GM. It is unlikely that any event yet to come in Flores' career will eclipse the non-trade that nearly sent him to Milwaukee in 2015 -- the teetering domino that led to Flores crying on the field, to the Mets' acquisition of Cespedes and, ultimately, to the team's hairpin turn and acceleration toward October.

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NEW YORK -- The careers of some Mets, more than others, will always be intertwined with that of Sandy Alderson. Zack Wheeler's life flipped upside down when Alderson made him the first significant acquisition of his tenure as general manager back in 2011. Yoenis Cespedes represented one of the largest risks that Alderson took. Brandon Nimmo became one of the boldest Draft choices in franchise history. All those players owe some significant portion of their career arcs to Alderson.

Then there is Wilmer Flores, whose walk-off single in the 10th inning Tuesday gave the Mets a 4-3 win over the Pirates, hours after Alderson announced he is taking a leave of absence as GM. It is unlikely that any event yet to come in Flores' career will eclipse the non-trade that nearly sent him to Milwaukee in 2015 -- the teetering domino that led to Flores crying on the field, to the Mets' acquisition of Cespedes and, ultimately, to the team's hairpin turn and acceleration toward October.

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Video: PIT@NYM: Flores talks about his approach on walk-off

"He was one of us," Flores said. "We're all humans. Things happen to us. It was tough today being out there playing."

Still a Met through at least the end of this season, Alderson stripped himself of all decision-making responsibilities earlier Tuesday, as he attempts to treat the cancer that has twice invaded his body. It is possible Alderson never returns to his former post, which he discussed with the team in a somber moment three hours prior to the game.

The Mets tried to push that out of their brains, if not their hearts, as they took an early two-run lead over the Pirates. Dynamic with seven strikeouts, Steven Matz gave those runs back in the fifth inning, then fell behind on Gregory Polanco's solo homer in the seventh. Half an inning later, Michael Conforto responded with his own home run to tie the game.

Video: PIT@NYM: Conforto mashes a game-tying HR in the 7th

The teams traded zeros until the 10th, which is the time of night that Flores typically reserves for his best work. After Conforto walked and Todd Frazier singled, Asdrubal Cabrera twice failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt, popping his second attempt back to pitcher Steven Brault. That brought up Flores, who cracked a fastball just inside the third-base bag for a walk-off single -- his seventh career walk-off RBI, matching David Wright's franchise record.

The most famous of those came on July 31, 2015, two days after Flores thought Alderson had traded him.

"We've talked a lot since that day," Flores said. "I think it changed a little bit, the way he talks about me."

Video: Wilmer Flores' roller-coaster week ends with walk-off

This has not been Flores' best season, much as it has been a disappointing year for the Mets, who entered the night ranked 25th in the Majors in runs per game and 26th in bullpen ERA. Watching his team fall to the worst record in the National League, with the NL's fewest wins, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said before the game that he is "incredibly frustrated, disappointed, angry about our season."

"We're in a results business," Wilpon said. "And at this point, we're well below our expectations."

Before departing, Alderson indicated that the Mets, who are now led by front-office executives John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi, could become active on the trade market as they look to 2019. To avoid a selloff of veteran parts, the Mets will need more nights like Tuesday, when the quality of their play matched the strength of their emotions.

It may be too late. Or, as Alderson and Flores proved three years ago, it may be just early enough.

"Honestly, I'm here, we're all here because he believed in us," Matz said. "Especially now under these circumstances, I want to prove that he was right."

Video: PIT@NYM: Matz strikes out Osuna swinging in the 2nd

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Conforto knots the score: Murmurs rippled through Citi Field when Polanco hit his solo homer in the top of the seventh inning, giving the Mets nine outs to avoid their eighth consecutive loss. They only needed two outs before Conforto launched his 10th home run into the Pirates' bullpen.

"We came in saying, 'Let's answer right now,'" Conforto said. "It's something that we hadn't been doing. Home runs are always exciting. They get the guys fired up, and I got a good pitch to hit. I let it get there and put a good swing on it -- all the things that we've been working on. I was able to prolong the game a little bit so Flo could do his thing and walk the game off again."

SOUND SMART
Pitching a perfect 10th inning for the Mets, rookie reliever Tim Peterson recorded his first career win. Peterson, whom manager Mickey Callaway said may see higher-leverage opportunities going forward, has posted a 1.69 ERA in his first seven career games.

"I think he deserves it at this point," Callaway said. "He's so efficient with his pitches ... because he does attack, and with some deception."

BENCHES CLEAR
Mets closer Jeurys Familia took exception when Josh Harrison slid hard into second base to break up a double play in the eighth inning, yelling at the Pirates infielder as he stalked off the mound. That caused both benches and bullpens to clear, but the situation quickly defused as Cabrera -- the recipient of the slide -- talked things over with Harrison. No punches were thrown, and no one was ejected.

Video: PIT@NYM: Benches clear after Harrison's slide

FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Unable to grip a bat with full strength on Monday, Nimmo felt well enough Tuesday to pinch-hit in the seventh inning. Nimmo, who took a Rich Hill cutter off his right thumb in Sunday's loss to the Dodgers, popped up on the only pitch he saw.

ROSTER MOVES
The Mets' bullpen shuffling continued before the game, when they called up reliever Gerson Bautista, optioning infielder Luis Guillorme to Triple-A Las Vegas. Bautista has struck out 33 batters over 25 2/3 Minor League innings this year, but he posted a 12.46 ERA in two prior big league stints. The move gave the Mets a nine-man bullpen with four bench players.

HE SAID IT
"You see his name coming up in the lineup, and it's, 'Let's just hang on until Wilmer gets up.' He's been amazing. He's so good in those situations. His heartbeat must be very, very low." -- Conforto, on Flores

UP NEXT
Wheeler's uptick in velocity -- he's reached 99 mph in each of his last three starts, including a career-high 99.4 mph on June 17 -- has helped him strike out 67 batters over his last 64 2/3 innings. Wheeler, who has a 3.98 ERA in June, will make his sixth and final start of the month when he takes on right-hander Ivan Nova and the Pirates in the 7:10 p.m. ET series finale Wednesday at Citi Field.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Wilmer Flores