On a Friday night in August 2019, I saw what a New York Mets playoff atmosphere looks like.
Friday, August 9, 2019. Citi Field, home of the New York Mets since 2009. The stands were packed for Marcus Stroman’s home debut, and a sell-out crowd roared with enthusiasm from the moment the game started.
I was at the game with my family, only a few short days after witnessing the Mets finally, FINALLY climbing back above .500 against the Marlins. Throughout the entire week, I only had one thought on my mind: Friday can’t come soon enough.
When we walked into the stadium that Friday night and collected our “deGrom 48” free t-shirts, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The atmosphere at Citi Field was electric. It was early August, but it felt like game one of the NLDS.
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I had never been to a Mets playoff game before, but I imagined that it might feel something like this. This series with the Nationals really meant something, and I was thrilled to finally be at a Mets game that, ya know, mattered.
As the game progressed, I sensed that something special was going to happen, though I didn’t quite know what. Fans were standing for entire innings at a time, which I had only ever witnessed at college sporting events.
Stroman, a career ground-ball pitcher, set a new season-high in strikeouts against the formidable Nationals lineup. Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis homered back-to-back in the fourth inning, sending the enormous crowd into extended cheers.
But as the top of the 9th inning ended with the Nationals up 6-3 and their closer, Sean Doolittle, coming into the game, I began to doubt whether I’d witness any true Mets magic that night.
I had learned my lesson the previous year about leaving Mets games early. During the summer of 2018, I attended a game that was tied 0-0 when the 9th inning ended. Jacob deGrom had pitched eight shutout innings, as was typical of him that year, but unfortunately, the lack of run support he received that night was also typical.
The LIRR train schedule waits for no man, and my parents and I decided that we’d better leave in order to catch the next train home.
Like the obsessed Mets fan I am, I followed the game on my phone all the way onto the train platform. It also just-so-happened that Brandon Nimmo was my favorite player on the team in 2018, besides deGrom of course.
And so when MLB Gameday informed me that Nimmo had hit a pinch-hit, walk-off, three-run homer to win it in the 10th, I emphatically declared to anyone who was listening, “I am NEVER leaving a Mets game early again!”
As it turned out, we got to that train in plenty of time.
So when the bottom of the 9th of this tense August game rolled around, I was determined to stick it out. The Mets had just come off of their magical stretch against the dregs of the MLB. They had shown a passion and resilience I had not seen from the Mets in several years. It was #LFGM season, and the boys were, indeed, hot. I shot my parents a look that said, “No way on God’s green earth are we leaving this game early,” and they got the message.
The inning began innocently enough, with Davis at-bat. He eked out a base hit just inside the left field line. Next up, Wilson “Buffalo” Ramos. He, too, continued his hot streak with a single to left-center field.
At this point, I started to feel vigorous butterflies in my stomach because the tying run, Todd Frazier, was up at-bat. Frazier had been struggling recently, and my first thought was, “Man, how crazy would it be if Frazier hit a home run here to tie the game.”
Well, folks, you know what happened next.
Frazier gets a fastball right down the middle from Doolittle and cranks it over the left field wall for a home run. Game is tied, 6-6.
Looking back, I cannot accurately articulate quite how I felt during that moment, other than to say I screamed so loudly I think my soul left my body. I jumped up and down with my arms in the air, hollering “OH MY GOD!!! AHHHHH” over and over. The still-full Citi Field crowd was in absolute pandemonium. Fans all around me were losing their minds. The crowd yelled at the top of its lungs for longer than most doctors would recommend. Flashes of blue and orange whirled all around as Mets fans rejoiced at this improbable comeback.
But the inning wasn’t over yet.
Several batters later, the Mets had runners on first and second with two outs, the game still tied at six apiece. Michael Conforto came up to bat. He’d been hitting well recently, showing off that smooth swing with several home runs to the Coca Cola Corner in the past few games. And on this warm, promising August night, he didn’t even need a home run.
On a 2-2 count, Conforto launches a fastball to right field, over Adam Eaton’s head. It lands for a double. Juan Lagares leaps home from second base, and the Mets win the game 7-6. If I thought the crowd had gone crazy for Frazier’s home run, they managed to top themselves by going absolutely bonkers at this walk-off hit.
The decibel level in Citi Field must have been louder than 50 jet engines and ACDC concerts combined. My voice was already shot from screaming at Frazier’s home run, but I still had plenty left in the tank to celebrate this game-winning hit. I cheered, I yelled, and this time I actually cried.
It took me a few moments to notice that Alonso had completely torn off Conforto’s jersey in center field amidst the celebration. Little did I know this would become a tradition that persisted all the way until the season’s final day.
The celebration continued as fans cheered “Let’s Go Mets” and “MVPete” all the way out of the stadium and onto the train platforms. I joined in, ecstatic that this team had pulled off what I thought would be an impossible victory.
Some random Mets fan decided this was the time to definitively state, “Yankees suck!” Quite simply, this was the most joyous group of people I had ever been a part of.
When I reflect on the 2019 season, countless positive memories come to mind. Watching with my dad as Alonso won the Home Run Derby is one of them. Crying tears of joy when Alonso hit number 53 is another.
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But that game on August 9 is hands-down the wildest Mets game I have ever been to and ranks highly among my favorite Mets memories of all time. That night was simply Amazin’.