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Return of Wright, offensive explosion have Mets in NL East driver's seat

Behind a rejuvenated offense and the return of David Wright, the New York Mets look like the clear favorites to win the NL East

There was the weird Matt Harvey home debut all the way back in April, during the Mets’ 11-game win streak that set the stage for this wild and thrilling summer in Flushing. There was the absurdist play in four acts at Citi Field in late July, that day of The Trade That Was Never Made. Then, the surreal redemption of Wilmer Flores two nights later. Few teams in baseball have provided more dramatic and bizarre turns this season than the New York Mets, and Monday night, they played a game that may have topped all the others in jaw-dropping moments—a game that included the Hollywood-scripted return of David Wright, a performance that added to Flores's growing legend and a record-breaking onslaught by a suddenly juggernaut offense that was, just a month ago, a complete laughing stock.

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Against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets mashed eight home runs, most in franchise history. They had 15 extra-base hits, most in franchise history. They pummeled Philadelphia 16–7 and extended their lead over the Nationals in the NL East to a season-high 5 1/2 games. The Mets are on fire: They’ve now scored at least 14 runs in three of the last four games, and since July 29, they have hit the most home runs in the majors (50).

This was a night that Jacob deGrom couldn’t make it through the third inning—he allowed seven runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 innings—a night in which the Mets trailed 7–2 after three innings, and yet New York still won in a laugher, thanks to home runs from Wright, Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Cuddyer, Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes and Flores, who rocked two round-trippers, had three hits, scored three runs and drove in five. New York's nine-run win was the largest margin of victory in franchise history in a game during which it trailed by at least five runs.

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Through all the fireworks, the biggest development for the Mets on this night was still the return of the captain, Wright. There are so many questions surrounding a player with Wright’s spinal stenosis condition—a narrowing of the spinal cavity, which puts pressure on nerves in the lower back—and understandably, many wondered if the third baseman would be ready after such a short rehab, which included only eight games in the Florida State League. Wright went 9 for 28 for Class A St. Lucie, with no extra-base hits, though it was clear he was ready to get back even if he hadn’t logged a suitable number of at-bats in rehab. Sunday night after the Mets flew in to Philadelphia from Denver, he greeted his teammates in the hotel lobby in full uniform, holding a tray of cookies.

“For me, it almost feels like Opening Day,” Wright said to reporters before Monday’s game.

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With one swing, Wright seemed to answer all the questions. In his first at-bat since April 14, Wright launched a 1–1 fastball into the second deck to lead off the second inning and put the Mets on the board.

“That’s the longest home run I’ve ever seen him hit,” color commentator Ron Darling said on the Mets broadcast.

The conditions in Philly could not have been more perfect for Wright’s return: He entered the game already having hit more home runs at Citizens Bank Park than any visiting hitter. Wright crushes lefties (.341 career average against lefthanded pitching), and the Mets were facing a lefthanded rookie, Adam Morgan. In the fourth inning, Wright ripped a single to leftfield. In the sixth, he laid off a 3–2 slider and walked, impressive for a player who hasn’t seen major-league pitching in over four months. For the night, he went 2 for 5 with three runs scored and a walk, though he did struggle in the field; he committed two errors, letting one knee-high line drive rocket past him and another routine groundball skid past.

The Mets will ease Wright back into the lineup. At third base they rank dead last in the league in batting average and OPS, but with the way the offense is performing, there’s no urgency to push him to play every night. Monday night was a reminder of what the Mets have been missing, and just how much better they are with their captain back. What a month it’s been for this team. No longer just a fun, summer underdog tale, they’ve become the most complete team—the clear favorites, now—in the NL East.