by Paul West
The Mets ended Saturday night’s game feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under them, but there are two silver linings in the cloud that’s formed over their postseason plans. First and foremost, the Mets accomplished their goal of securing home-field advantage in the NLDS. Second, but perhaps more interestingly: Wilmer Flores will be tonight’s starting shortstop.
On July 29th, Flores shed some of the most talked-about tears in baseball history. Two days later, he hit a 12th-inning walkoff home run against the Washington Nationals. For the next month, he tore the cover off the ball, coming up with one big hit after another and reaching folk hero status among Mets fans. The disappointment some felt over not getting Carlos Gomez was forgotten soon enough, as Flores was one of the National League’s best-hitting shortstops down the stretch. The door was also left open for the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, who went on one of the best post-trade tears ever.
Tonight, Flores will make his first postseason start–in Citi Field’s first postseason game, in front of the fans who have chanted his name since August. The moment might be perfect for Flores, who seemed to relax in the weeks following his near-trade and showed the offensive potential that had many excited about his promotion to the team. His right-handed power will be well suited to face lefty Brett Anderson, who’s given up 17 home runs to righties this season. He’s got a strong arm at shortstop, and has made some solid defensive plays since looking frightful at times early in the season. The key for Flores will be to stay relaxed, let his talent work for itself, and embrace the opportunity to come up big.
Just like he did down the stretch.