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Catalytic Reyes lights up New York

Catalytic Reyes lights up New York

NEW YORK -- There might not be another player in Major League Baseball quite like Jose Reyes, and the Mets are delighted they have him, now more than ever.

In the biggest game of his young life, Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with the Mets' very life depending on it, Reyes rose above everybody.

He crushed a 1-1 pitch from Chris Carpenter over the wall in right-center in the bottom of the first, creating something on the order of delirium at Shea Stadium.

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The passion he brings to his team was palpable as the Mets went about the business of dispatching the Cardinals, 4-2, behind John Maine and those main men in manager Willie Randolph's proud bullpen.

"That's the ultimate shot of energy, when you talk about your leadoff guy hitting a home run -- especially against a guy like Chris Carpenter," said David Wright, who figures to be linked with Reyes, his good buddy, for years on the left side of a remarkable infield.

"He did everything," veteran right fielder Shawn Green said of Reyes. "He led off the game with a home run, turned two double plays, got on base, stole bases.

"He's as much of an MVP as anyone in the league."

That V in MVP could stand for volatile as well as valuable, given how Reyes illuminates a team and a stadium.

"Jose, there's nothing he can't do in a baseball game," Mets left fielder Endy Chavez said. "He has no limits. He's so exciting. He gets us all excited."

To locate a leadoff hitter with Reyes' combination of power and speed, his ability to completely dominate a game, you have to go back to the 1980s prime of Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines, two of the five greatest leadoff hitters in history, by most statistical measures.

"Jose Reyes, every time he gets on base, we feel we're going to win the ballgame," Carlos Beltran said. "He gets on first, he can change the momentum of the game."

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Reyes had been relatively quiet through the first five games of the series, hitting .261 with a double, a triple and three runs scored. He hadn't even attempted to steal a base, which is odd for a man who led the Majors with 64 thefts.

But with everything on the line, Reyes brought all of his talents, all of his desire, and all of his passion to Shea Stadium.

"I've said it many, many times -- he's our catalyst, our igniter," Randolph said. "He gets us going and kick-starts us, and as Jose goes, we go. His energy is infections, and we love him for that."

Not content to go deep on one of the game's best pitchers, Reyes stole a base in the third but was stranded; singled in the fifth; singled again in the seventh and stole his second base of the night, scoring on Paul Lo Duca's two-run single.

And those two runs were enormous when Billy Wagner gave up a pair in the ninth before sending everybody home.

"My teammates told me [Wednesday] I have to get on base," Reyes said. "I said, 'Every time I get on base, something good is going to happen.'

"I was able to get on base a lot, and the most important thing [is], we [won] the game."

Reyes said he didn't feel a burden to make things happen, knowing that mental trap is the surest way to make nothing happen.

"No, I don't put that kind of stuff in my mind," he said. "I just try to get to the batter's box, get comfortable and try to go from there. I just try to put the ball in play and use my speed, so that's all that matters."

Speed kills -- especially when it comes in a package of talent that soars the way Reyes' talent soars.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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