The New York Mets are keeping pace with first place Washington Nationals in the NL East thanks to one man: Wilmer Flores.
Maybe, you do. Maybe, you know him simply because he was possibly the first professional baseball player to cry — yes, actual tears — while manning shortstop.
Though, it won’t be the waterworks that remain a lasting legacy for both Mets and baseball fans. It’s Wilmer’s Flores response to the unfortunate events of July 31, 2015 that saw him traded-then-untraded to Milwaukee — all in a matter of five innings.
A response of sheer will and grit.
The very next night at Citi Field, in the first of a string of all-important division battles against the rival Nationals, Flores was called upon during a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 12th inning, he did this:
That “tears of joy” shot brought the Mets within two games of the NL East ceiling, a spot they would never look back from on their way to an NL pennant.
Now a year later, New York is in the same struggle — a division race — over the dog days of summer.
And yet with the injuries mounting, the replacements flooding in and seemingly no room to breathe, Flores is making contact like he’s swinging at a beach ball.
With the return of controversially beloved Jose Reyes to Flushing, who’s tasked with playing third base, somehow, someway, the move lit a fire under Wilmer.
When the Mets clubhouse learned that Reyes was on his was to the Big Apple — ending his minor-league assignment — and the club reeling to stay within striking range of Washington, Flores showed the same tenacity he displayed 300 days ago, breaking out and pushing his team to a sweep of the powerhouse Cubs.
He drove in four runs, scored three, and hit two out of the park. Not to mention, Flores became the second Met to go 6-for-6 at the plate, joining the Venezuelan’s idol, Edgardo Alfonso.
In doing so, he raised his season’s batting average from .224 to .255.
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It’s time we notice, the 24-year-old doesn’t play well until he’s pushed.
Many guessed the signing of a mercurial Reyes would spark this ball club. But no one could guess the Mets would begin to turn their luck around because Flores turned himself in the 2006-08 superstar David Wright.
Not only is Wilmer walking more than ever, but he’s also posting career high’s in isolated power, slashing .261/.319/.455 with a 105 wRC+.
While Flores is daring the Mets to pry the third base position from his cold dead hands, manager Terry Collins is doing everything he can to crush the lifelong Met’s recent success.
How else could you explain the starting job immediately being handed to a struggling and seemingly-lost Reyes?
Nevertheless, Flores can’t stop and won’t stop swinging the bat with authority.
He added two more homers against the Marlins last week. On Thursday, during the series opener against the Nats, he smoked a pinch-hit three run bomb, completing an epic comeback and giving the Mets a 7-6 lead.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) July 8, 2016
No matter the job, no matter the circumstance, Wilmer continues to display this key characteristic that will define his legacy in New York. He is resilience personified.
So, please … on the behalf of Mets fans worldwide … play the kid, Terry.