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The Glorious Four

It doesn’t take a Richard Henry Lee galloping down to the House of Burgesses and back (stopping off in Stratford long enough to refresh the missus) to deliver a resolution [1] that declares unequivoca-LEE that the four-game series the New York Mets just completed against the Chicago Cubs is and ought to be considered among the most glorious quartets of contests ever brought forth on this continent, or at least Flushing.

So help me Wilmer.

As great series go, this was about as good it gets. The mood beforehand was morose. The incoming opposition was assumed omnipotent. What could possibly go right?

Everything. Every little thing the Mets did at Citi Field in sweeping the four games winding down the season’s first half and leading up to this Fourth of July was magic. Two nailbiters; two blowouts; a dozen homers; thirty-two runs overall; and fourteen runs in the finale [2], fueled by twenty-two hits that included six in six at-bats from one third baseman whose jersey every July seems to tell us all we need to know.

At the end of last July, Wilmer Flores [3] famously tugged at the “Mets” on his shirt as he crossed home plate in the twelfth inning so as to inform us what team he was about to spiritually lead on an uncharted adventure into autumn. At the beginning of this July, it was the number on his uniform top that accurately transmitted the weekend’s vital 411.

Wilmer wears 4.
The Mets just swept 4.
And what a 4 they were.

Seats that had never been touched were reached on Thursday [4]. Players that had been barely seen became stars on Friday [5]. Leads teetering on the brink of dissolution remained resolute on Saturday [6]. And hits that just kept on coming just kept on coming and coming some more on Sunday, especially from Flores, he who homered and singled in the second, singled in the fourth, homered in the fifth, singled in the seventh and — batting against a catcher, which will happen when you’re poised for a sixth plate appearance — singled in the eighth.

Six hits in one game tied a Mets record, originally forged by the revered Edgardo Alfonzo [7] in 1999. Like Wilmer, Fonzie hailed from Venezuela and got shifted around the infield quite a bit in his Mets career. Unlike Fonzie, Wilmer rarely receives the benefit of the doubt. Once Edgardo proved he could hit, a spot — some years at third, others at second — was found for him. The only place Wilmer ever seems guaranteed of having is in our hearts.

The diamond has proven a more tenuous setting for Flores. He was more or less the regular shortstop in 2015, but the Mets got amnesia and then Asdrubal. Lately Wilmer’s the stopgap third baseman, filling in for one sidelined franchise legend while seatwarming for another. That Jose Reyes [8] (all not-so-ancillary issues aside) has never played third in the majors doesn’t seem to faze those who assign players their positions. Perhaps Reyes will be professionally reborn at David Wright [9]’s corner. Perhaps Flores, on the heels of 6-for-6, will look pretty good by comparison.

He looked incomparable at the plate Sunday. So did the Mets as an entity. The 22 hits tied another team record: most in a home game, first set on September 20, 1981, which was no random affair. It was the third win of a three-game sweep of first-place St. Louis in the “second season” of that torn-asunder strike year. The Mets failed to hit with runners on for much of the day, which explains why a 22-hit attack produced only a 7-6 victory [10]. Ah, but the twenty-second hit excavated from that Sunday at Shea is what made for the happiest of recaps, with Mookie Wilson [11] ending the game via walkoff home run against future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter [12].

Sweeping the Cardinals moved the Mets to within two-and-a-half games of first place [13] with two weeks to go as New York improbably insinuated itself into a mini-pennant race. The particulars of what turned into a false alarm (the Mets fell out of contention almost as quickly as they’d catapulted into it) are broadly forgotten, but the emotions were timeless [14]. Mookie, then 25, called it “the most exciting game of my life”. The fans, deprived of a semblance of September stimulation for so long, were on board with his sentiment. There was no Mr. Met Dash or sponsored postgame festivity, yet, as Bob Murphy described the euphoria over Channel 9, when he was still doing TV, “The crowd is just staying here. They don’t want to go home. It’s unbelievable!”

You gotta believe nobody was in a rush to exit baseball nirvana, which is where we and our team currently reside after sweeping four from the Cubs. I don’t know if these four wins over Joe Maddon’s projected world champions (based on zero percent of October precincts reporting) will send us roaring into the second half on a runway of momentum, or if this was yet another of those spurts that will be answered with a spritz of 2016 reality, the kind that has thus far doused every encouraging burst of energy with a dose of lethargy. I also don’t much care after bearing witness to these four games, each and every one of them a beauty on its own terms. The Wild Card is still up for grabs and the division isn’t down the tubes. That’s all the context I need on this holiday Monday.

Sunday we had Flores and his six hits. We had Syndergaard and his untroubled seven innings. We had the Mets chasing Lester in the second after posting eight runs. We had Granderson, Rivera and Johnson each chipping in a homer, making it five Met bombs bursting in air on the day, matching the Citi Field team record established two whole nights earlier. We had basically every Met, compression-sleeved and otherwise, doing something marvelous to create the 14-3 punctuation that punted Chicago from the premises. We had four wins in a row against the Cubs in one series for the first time since, oh yeah, the 2015 NLCS, but also four wins in a row against the Cubs in one regular-season series for the first time since the Mets administered reprisal for 1984’s not-ready-for-prime-time shortfall by sweeping the defending divisional kings out of Queens in June of 1985. Those Sutcliffe-Sandberg Cubs were reeling when they dropped by Flushing and, soon after losing four of four to the rival Mets, dropped off the map for the rest of ’85. The Shea PA blasted “The Night Chicago Died [15]” for emphasis when it was over. It was glorious.

As was this series, when the Mets went on a tear…a tear of joy.

Say, a friend of mine has a neat idea to commemorate a piece of Citi Field history. Check it out here [16] and, if so inclined, please lend your support to the effort.