NY Mets: Catching up with old friend Wilmer Flores and his 2021 season
If you made a list of the “top 10 most beloved New York Mets players of the past decade, Wilmer Flores would probably be near the top of that list. Though he was mostly a part-time/utility player while he was in Queens, Flores is the Mets’ all-time leader in walk-off RBIs, ending 10 games in glorious fashion throughout his Mets career.
Unfortunately, those clutch hits weren’t enough to make Flores a New York Mets player for life.
He was non-tendered by the Amazins after the 2018 season and spent 2019 with the Arizona Diamondbacks before making his way to the San Francisco Giants, where he has been since 2020. This year in San Francisco, Flores has played all around the infield, seeing time at third base, second base, first base, and designated hitter.
Even in a crowded veteran infield considering of Giants lifers Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, along with other vets such as former Tampa Bay Rays golden boy Evan Longoria, Flores has managed to make his mark. In the first half of 2021, he ranked fourth on the Giants in hits behind Crawford, Buster Posey, and Mike Yastrzemski, fourth in runs scored (also behind those three players), and has played in the second-most games behind Crawford of anyone on the team.
Though he has taken his talents several time zones away from Queens, Flores still has his signature flair for the dramatic. He is batting .313 as a pinch hitter, compared to .255 overall, and two of his nine home runs have been pinch-hit dingers.
On April 20 of this season, down 6-4 entering the top of the 8th in a game against the Phillies, Flores hit a towering pinch-hit three-run homer in the midst of a six-run inning to put the Giants up 10-6, in a game they eventually won, 10-7.
Flores’ other pinch-hit homer so far this season came on June 16 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He came in to replace starter Anthony DeSclafani in the lineup in the bottom of the fifth, in a game that the Giants already led 8-2, and cranked a 1-0 pitch from Ryan Buchter high above the left-field fence and into the bleachers for a homer.
Though not historically known for his defense, Flores has also flashed the leather on occasion this season. On July 5, in the sixth inning of a scoreless game between the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, Flores made an impressive diving stop to his right, firing the ball on target to the first baseman Darin Ruf to rob Edmundo Sosa of a hit.
On April 26 in a game against the Colorado Rockies, this time playing second base instead of third, Flores made a leaping catch to rob Ryan McMahon of a hit. Yes, the Giants were up 10-0 at the time, but as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Flores was not exactly the fleetest of foot while with the Mets, but that was mostly due to his lack of range, which became especially clear when he was playing shortstop, and not because of an inaccurate arm or nonchalance.
Finally, in case you’re wondering what Flores has really done for us lately, he did come up big in a recent series against the Mets’ division rivals, the Washington Nationals. On July 9, in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tight 4-3 game at Oracle Park, Flores hammered a solo home run to deep left-center field. The 5-3 score stood, meaning that Wilmer’s home run directly contributed to the Giants beating the Nationals that day.
For a Giants team that has been in first place for much of the first half and ranks first in MLB in home runs and third in OPS, Flores has hit third, fourth, fifth, or sixth in the lineup in 49 of the 58 games he’s started. He has been an extremely valuable part of their unexpected reign in the NL West division, which many experts assumed would be two-team race between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres before the season started.
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Though Wilmer is now on the team that knocked the Mets out of the postseason in their last playoff appearance, I will always root for him to succeed, and I hope he helps carry the Giants to a postseason berth in 2021. He may wear orange and black now, but he most certainly bleeds orange and blue.