When New York Mets third baseman David Wright was mired in an atrocious 1-19 slump earlier this postseason, he offered to sit the next game (Wright’s manager kept him in). Wright had just two base hits, in 11 at-bats, during the first two games of the World Series, both Mets losses. More than a few Mets fans dialed up the sports radio shows Friday afternoon, and demanded that their captain be benched. Strange, right? It’s so unlike New Yorkers to overreact.
Wright, however, answered his critics Friday night with a furious outburst, and rescued this World Series from an anticlimactic end. If the Mets had fallen behind 3-0 to the Kansas City Royals, these playoffs were over, according to history: no team has ever come back from such a deficit to win a World Series. But behind a home run and four RBI from Wright, who has spent a dozen seasons in Queens witnessing an occasional high but far too many lows — 90-loss seasons, indifferent fans, heartbreaking late-September collapses — the Mets trounced the Royals, 9-3. The question now: can Wright, the face his long-suffering franchise, keep the good vibes going in Game 4, which is Saturday night, and beyond? “It was a storybook script,” says New York reserve outfielder Michael Cuddyer. “Hopefully it’s a storybook ending.”
Wright needed a blast in the worst way. “Clearly David has been struggling,” says Mets manager Terry Collins. And in the very first inning of his first World Series home game with the Mets, the organization he cheered for while growing up in coastal Virginia, he blasted a two-run home run to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Kansas City starting pitcher Yordano Ventura threw him a high fastball. “Sometimes you just swing hard,” said Wright after the game near his locker, his back wrapped in an ice pack to treat the spinal stenosis condition that sidelined him for most of the regular season, “and hopefully you hit it.”
Wright’s shot changed the tenor of the Series. “That was a huge, huge emotional lift,” says Cuddyer. “You can feed off these fans, and you can tell that these fans feel like he’s one of them. And rightfully so, he’s been here for so long, he’s done so many good things for this city, and this organization.”
“Off the bat, we thought it was gone,” says Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “So we were losing it a little bit.”
“Running around the bases,” says Wright, “it’s just like floating.” Wright’s bases-loaded single in the sixth inning drove in two more runs; the Mets blew the game open. “Tonight was his game,” says Cuddyer. “He took it over.”
According to Wright, his acclimation to the postseason grind spurred this breakthrough performance. He’s not used to late-October baseball. During his New York tenure, his team reached the playoffs once, in 2006, and lost in the National League championship series. “You go through those nights where you can’t fall asleep, the adrenaline’s pumping, you have those anxious butterflies,” Wright says. “You get up there, you’re a little nervous. But I think the more games you play in the postseason, the more comfortable you get for those at-bats. You can almost treat it more like a baseball game rather than getting too emotional, if that makes any sense.
“You want to feel a little tired. That’s when you can slow things down. Rather than when everything’s feeling great; you’ve got the adrenaline pumping, this and that. You get up there, you’ll swing at the rosin bag sometimes.”
Wright and his teammates will have to steady themselves in Game 4, when they face Kansas City starting pitcher Chris Young. The 6-ft.-10-in. righty gives KC’s opponents a much different look: his fastball usually peaks in the high-80s, compared to the 90-mph gas his teammates toss. But given Young’s height and long stride, the ball comes quicker than hitters expect. New York will counter with rookie Steven Matz, who will wake up in his childhood bedroom on Long Island, and pitch in the World Series for the team he grew up supporting.
A storybook series lives on.