By Jake Brown
Remember Shea Stadium in 2006, 2007, and 2008? The Mets fell just short of getting to the World Series in 2006 after losing in Game 7 of the NLCS. 2007 and 2008 both featured all-time collapses in September, but the ballpark was packed as they were in first place. The team was relevant and in the pennant race in the final two months. There were 50,000+ in the house almost every night. Since Citi Field opened in 2009, August and September have been a ghost town. The Mets haven’t been relevant past July in seven years.
For the first time in Citi Field history, it rocked like Shea Stadium this past weekend.
The Mets went out and swept the first place Nationals to join them at the top of the NL East. It’s August 3rd and the New York Mets are in first place. Nobody thought to utter those words before the season began. What a magical weekend it was. I had the pleasure of attending all three games this weekend against the Nationals and the atmosphere was unbelievable. Fans packed Citi all weekend, and the hype was real. Once the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes minutes before the trade deadline Friday, there was a spark ignited into the fan base.
36,154 fans showed up Friday night to watch a thrilling 12-inning affair that ended in storybook fashion as Wilmer Flores hit a walk off homer to put the Mets within two games of first place. “FROM TEARS TO CHEERS.” It was too easy a headline. Oh yeah, Matt Harvey had a perfect game going into the sixth inning. You can sense then that something was brewing. It was almost too good to be true.
Then Saturday arrived, and a sold out crowd of 42,996 made their presence felt on a gorgeous Saturday evening that was also Fireworks Night. Lucas Duda got the fireworks going early all night long. Two homers would tie the game and a RBI double that just missed home run number three would give the Mets the lead. They went on to win 3-2. Friday’s crowd and story was phenomenal. Saturday would top Friday not only in attendance, but electricity. The Mets were a game behind the Nationals.
Then Sunday arrived…and when you thought the magic had reached its peak, the third inning came. It all came in the blink of an eye. While still celebrating Curtis Granderson’s two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-1 lead, Daniel Murphy decided to absolutely clobber the first pitch from Jordan Zimmermann into the Pepsi Porch. Cespedes would get his first hit as a Met with a single into left. Then Duda’s home run hot streak continued as he popped a high fly ball over the right field wall. Ninth homer in eight games. Good lord. Three homers, five pitches, and the Mets were up 5-1. That third inning was the most thrilling in the ballpark’s seven-year history. That would be all they needed behind rookie phenom Noah Synderaard, who once again was lights out, going eight innings and striking out nine in a 5-2 win. Boom. Sweep. First place. Just. Like. That.
It’s crazy how it all came about, right? Last week, it seemed like the usual second half swoon was coming. Jenrry Mejia had a 162-game ban for using PEDs for a second time. They had the whole Carlos Gomez trade debacle with Flores shedding tears on the field. Then they blew a 7-1 lead Thursday and lost in horrifying fashion. The feeling was pretty bleak. Then the trade for Cespedes happened. Then the sweep happened. Now, the Mets are 7-1 favorites to win the National League. Talk about going 0 to 100…real quick.
I’ve invested a lot of time and money into this team. I’ve been to about 30 games this season, and the investment is starting to pay off. The team doesn’t need promotions anymore to get people to the games. Finally, the product on the field is worth the price of admission. This weekend showcased what this team is built around. Harvey, DeGrom, Syndergaard. The Mets young pitching is the best in baseball, and when Steven Matz returns from injury, he’s the fourth starter on the staff. Jon Niese is essentially No. 5 and he’s been pitching well the past two months. For the older fans, the Mets big three reminds many of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Gary Gentry in 1969. How about 1986 with Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, and Bobby Ojeda?
There was no place better than Shea in big-time games, and especially in the playoffs. It was built to rock. The stadium would shake. I remember being there for Game 6 of the NLCS in 2006 against the Cardinals, and the mezzanine section above me felt like it was going to collapse. It was one of the fondest memories of my childhood. We have yet to see Citi truly rock like Shea, but we got a taste of it over the weekend. This place has been silent since 2009 as fans have waited for a team that can compete. They have one now. Even in the Johan Santana no-hitter in 2012, it wasn’t a packed house. As the game progressed, it had a magical feel to it and the moment was tremendous when it happened, but the electricity in the stadium wasn’t even close to what this sweep against the Nationals brought.
It’s time to believe now. Dominant young pitching mixed in with a couple big power bats, a strong back end of the bullpen, some veterans, and you got yourself a hell of a ball club. It’s still early, but this team has a legit chance to play in October, and do I dare say…November? Hey, Travis D’Arnaud said it to a fan while driving home from Saturday night’s win. Buckle up, because there’s meaningful baseball being played in Queens for the next two months. The Mets are all in right now, and there will be a nostalgic feeling at Citi Field down the stretch as they fight for a playoff spot.
It’s been a while, but being a Mets fan is finally paying dividends and boy is it thrilling to watch unfold.
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. He previously hosted Brown and Troupe and 4th & Goal with JB & BT with former NFL tight end Ben Troupe on Play.it, iTunes, and CBSLocalSports.com and will be announcing a new podcast soon. Jake lives in Queens, NY and has struggled living the life of a Mets, Knicks, and Jets fan.