Believe it, Mets fans: there will be playoff baseball at Citi Field in October.
The New York Mets captured the National League Eastern Division title Saturday evening with a 10-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on the road, securing the team’s first playoff appearance since 2006.
Citi Field was empty Saturday, but it will be full of excited fans next month when it hosts postseason baseball for the first time in its history. The Mets are currently projected to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaders of the NL Western Division, in the best-of-five Division Series, though it has yet to be decided which team will get home-field advantage. The regular season ends on Oct. 4.
For the Mets and their long-suffering fans, this moment of euphoria has been a long time coming. Little had gone right for the franchise since they lost the National League pennant in 2006 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The last nine seasons had been filled with season-ending collapses, on- and off-field embarrassments, injuries to key players and one losing season after another.
Fittingly, David Wright — the team captain who had been with the club through it all — helped ice the proverbial cake with a three-run home run in the top of the ninth.
The team’s fortunes turned around this year on the strength of young starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. After a hot start to the season, however, the Mets found themselves in late July with a 49-48 record and in second place behind the Washington Nationals.
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson then made several trades to strengthen the team’s two weak points: the starting lineup and bullpen. The Mets picked up infielders Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves, then reliever Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics and, at the July 31 trading deadline, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers.
The revamped Mets went on a roll in August, sweeping a three-game series from the Nationals at Citi Field, vaulting themselves into first place for good, eventually growing a nine-game lead. Despite a mid-September slump for the Mets that saw the lead shrink to six games, the Nationals couldn’t capitalize on the Mets’ losses.