LOS ANGELES -- As David Wright spent most of this summer sidelined by a serious back ailment, he ignored those who doubted his future and longed for the opportunity to do what he did on Friday night, when he once again played the role of captain while helping the Mets claim a 3-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
"It was fun, and that's what I love to do," Wright said. "That's about as sweet as I thought it was going to be."
Wright set the tone for the evening when he drew a 12-pitch walk off Clayton Kershaw in the first inning and then capped his memorable experience by producing a decisive two-run single off Pedro Baez in the seventh right after Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pulled Kershaw from the game. As the veteran third baseman produced these moments and reacted to the clutch hit with an elated hop, he certainly didn't look like a guy who had missed four months because of spinal stenosis, an ailment that threatened his career and certainly cast doubts about his ability to even return this year.
"We all know the story and we all know how hard he worked to get back and to get into this situation," Mets left fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "To be able to come through with a big hit, it's special for him. It's special for us and obviously big for our team."
Having grown up near Wright in southwestern Virginia, Cuddyer has long known of the champion spirit possessed by the Mets' third baseman and captain, who has continued to exceed expectations since coming off the disabled list in late August. He homered in his first game back and again on Sept. 26, the day the Mets clinched the NL East in Cincinnati.
"That's just who he is," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I have no other way to describe it. He's a big-time player, and when you need him, he seems to get the big hit."
Dating back to when he collected three RBIs while making his postseason debut in Game 1 of the 2006 NLDS against the Dodgers, he has lived for moments like the one he was presented with on Friday night, when he came to the plate with the bases loaded and the Mets holding a 1-0 lead. Kershaw had just exited his 113-pitch outing and turned the ball over to Baez, a hard-throwing reliever.
After Baez missed the strike zone with his first two pitches, Wright fouled off one 99-mph fastball and then spit on another. He fouled off another fastball before lining yet another 99-mph heater into center field. The fist pump and elation he showed when he reached first base extended beyond the fact that he had given the Mets a 3-0 lead.
"When a guy's going that hard, you allow him to provide the power and you just try to go nice and easy and just make sure you just get to it and beat him to the spot," Wright said. "So I'll watch film and he throws extremely hard. So the biggest thing was just try to be on time and hopefully find a hole. I was lucky to do that."
In some ways, Wright is simply fortunate to be playing given the condition that he battled this summer. But at the same time, his commitment to return and continue to lead the Mets just like he has for the past decade is a further testament to the dedication that has allowed him to become this dependable asset.
"Being able to kind of come full circle and be able to enjoy it as a baseball player now, that meant a lot," Wright said. "There were times where you go out there and you feel the energy and the electricity of this building and you think of kind of the path, the road that I've been on this year, and you're grateful and you try to soak it in as much as you can."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.