Baseball fans might not think David Wright deserves to start the All-Star Game and Fred Wilpon might not think he's a superstar, but it was hard to give much weight to their thoughts on Thursday night as he led the Mets to a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Phillies.
What are such labels worth when Wright looks more like a member of the Avengers than a mild-mannered third baseman? The Mets weren't quite on the brink of a global catastrophe, but their best-laid plans were close to going up in smoke all the same.
The Phillies won on Wednesday and they smacked R.A. Dickey around like they never got the memo that he's the greatest thing to hit baseball since the three-run homer. Dickey could have gotten more defensive help, perhaps, but that wouldn't have changed the fact that he didn't have his good knuckleball and that means all he could do was scrap his way to allowing five runs in seven innings.
Wright wouldn't let the Phillies run away with things, though. He outdueled Cole Hamels in the third to single in a run after a long at-bat and he homered with a runner on base two innings later to keep the Mets within striking distance at 5-4 as the game lurched into the ninth.
Enter Jonathan Papelbon, who actually seems like a comic book movie villain with his cartoonish personality even as he does the unthinkable and unites Mets and Yankees fans to a common cause. Yankees fans have long known that there was nothing better than seeing Papelbon's sad face after he blows a game and Mets fans got to taste that satisfaction with Jordany Valdespin's home run earlier this year.
They wanted it again and Papelbon obliged by loading the bases and then taking a Daniel Murphy shot off his leg to tie the score. That brought Wright to the plate and, well, the pictures tell a far better story than words in this case.
Looking at the standings might make you wonder why this felt like such a huge win for the Mets. It was big because of the optics and the psychology.
If the Phils win on Thursday, they won a road series against a team ahead of them in the standings just when they are getting Ryan Howard back in the lineup. Close the first half with another series win this weekend and there are flickers of hope that it can come together for a second half run in a division that hasn't quite run away from them yet.
The Mets put the boot to that idea, though, and they did it in a truly humiliating way that has to push the Phillies a little bit closer to opening up the doors and shouting that everything must go. You've felt people resisting the urge to totally buy into this Mets team across the first half because they don't want to get burnt again.
Wright, Dickey, Johan Santana and this team's unyielding resiliency have made it impossible to keep arms folded at a distance from the team. Pain may come, but that pain can only come if you experienced sheer joy at the outcome on Thursday night and you can't do that unless you've fully committed to the Mets.
It's about time to put all the chips in the middle of the table. The Mets are in the hunt and it is going to make for quite the summer.