Tears to cheers: Flores hits dramatic walk-off blast
Two days after nearly being traded, crying on the field, Mets infielder the hero
NEW YORK -- Every emotion a human being is capable of feeling, teammate Michael Cuddyer said, Wilmer Flores must have felt. It was all so plain to see: There was Flores on Wednesday night, baring his soul before thousands in attendance and the millions watching every other way, tears streaming down his face because he thought he had been traded. There was Flores, undoubtedly flashing back to the day he signed at 16 years old, his eyes turning to a dugout full of teammates and friends.
Forty-eight hours later, there was Flores sweating out the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- "He had to wonder if it was his last day in the clubhouse," manager Terry Collins said -- and taking the field. His field, Citi Field. Then there was Flores hitting a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of the Mets' 2-1 win over the Nationals, somehow outshining their season-changing acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.
Rewrite the back pages. Rip up the script. Flores is a Met, and what's more, he's a beloved one.
"The Mets fans were definitely rallying around Wilmer and our team throughout the whole game," starting pitcher Matt Harvey said. "I think they felt as much excitement as we definitely felt."
The story of Flores' non-trade to the Brewers is by now well-known, as evidenced by the standing ovation fans gave him in the first inning Friday when he made a diving play at second base. If they begrudged Flores for his imperfect transition to shortstop earlier this year, Mets fans came to love him Wednesday in all his humanness.
"I couldn't be happier," Flores said. "I didn't anticipate that."
Another ovation came in the fourth inning, when Flores smacked a single off Ian Desmond's glove to give the Mets their first run of the game. That they didn't score again that inning, stranding the bases loaded, only ratcheted up the drama as things descended into extra innings.
By that point, those who stuck around were left wondering just where on I-95 Cespedes might be; the Mets didn't activate their new acquisition before a tightrope game in which they certainly could have used him. But all was forgiven in the bottom of the 12th, when Flores stepped to the plate, took a ball low and a strike on the inside corner, and then blasted a 95-mph Felipe Rivero fastball over the left-center-field fence.
"That," Cuddyer said, "is one of the best walk-off homers I've ever seen."
It was Flores' signature, regardless of how the rest of this season unfolds. With Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard headlining the new-look, October-or-bust Mets, Flores will not receive regular playing time going forward. He's already lost most of his shortstop reps to Ruben Tejada, and has plenty of competition at second or third base.
But Flores is a Met now, a Met regardless, and that clearly counts for something.
"That's why they're great fans," Collins said. "They have a lot of respect for the game."
At night's end, Collins cautioned the sportswriters at Citi Field -- a growing tribe, as the Mets' popularity swells -- that even the best of them couldn't write this fiction. This fact. This whatever it was: a wacky, bizarre, emotional, uplifting bit of tumult in what could have been a lost season for Flores and the Mets.
"Can it happen at a better time to a better person in a bigger situation than that?" Collins said. "We are all so thrilled for him."