WASHINGTON -- David Wright slid home, past Wilson Ramos' tag, carrying a critical run in the Mets' 8-5 win over the Nationals on Monday. Wright scrambled to his feet and, as a dugout full of his teammates looked on, one of the most even-keeled stars of this generation unleashed a powerful whoop and a fist pump.
This, as manager Terry Collins put it, was "the biggest game, I think, of our entire season so far." And it was Wright -- still the cog of this machine, even after missing four months due to a career-threatening back condition -- who played a critical role in it.
It was not just the fact that a loss would have skimmed the Mets' NL East lead down to three games, five days after they held a margin more than double that size. There was the matter of Matt Harvey to consider, as well; the Mets need him to pitch as much as possible down the stretch, and for the first time this weekend, they learned that he may not be up to the task.
So Wright spent Sunday's game doing his captainly duty, providing the other type of leadership the Mets have missed. He sat next to Harvey for four innings in the dugout, in a conversation that Collins insisted had a significant effect on the pitcher.
What was said may never be public; Wright classified it as "between Matt and I." But it was undoubtedly influential because of who Wright is. The third baseman then spent Monday proving all over again just who, precisely, he is. Wright's RBI single in the seventh inning plated the go-ahead run, while his fist-pumping dash around the bases provided some critical insurance.
"We know it's a big series for us," Wright said. "We knew we had to bring it today. It was an exciting game, an emotional game. The fans get into it, the emotion, the energy. That's what you dream about."
Now the Mets hold a five-game NL East lead, with what Wright called an "angry Matt Harvey" on the mound for Tuesday's encore. A clubhouse that could have splintered due to Harvey seems to have rallied; while Wright spoke by his locker after Monday's win, infielder Juan Uribe screamed out a cappella lyrics to a Michael Jackson song as others laughed and grinned. That scene stood in stark relief to what unfolded down the hallway in the home clubhouse, where Bryce Harper chided Washington's fan base for leaving Nationals Park early.
The Mets offered no sympathy. As Wright trailed them off the field after Monday's victory, a sizable contingent of New York fans waited behind the visiting dugout, chanting and screaming and giving him a standing ovation.
"Just because David's that even-keeled guy, doesn't mean there's not intensity in there," Collins said. "You've got to play with some emotion. It's one thing to be able to control it. It's another thing to still have it. Sometimes you just let it out, and today was a day for David. It was big for him and big for us."