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Reliving David Wright’s memorable 2015 return

With the odds stacked heavily against him, Wright worked his way back from injury and was a key contributor to the team’s World Series run.

World Series - Kansas City Royals v New York Mets - Game Three Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The date is Monday, August 24, 2015. The New York Mets are in the heat of their first pennant race in nine years and are beginning a four-game showdown with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The club has won 15 of its last 21 games and to surge past the underachieving Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East. With 39 games left, the Mets have opened up a five-game lead in the division and are looking for additional breathing room.

With All-Star Jacob deGrom on the mound, the Mets fall behind by three runs in the first inning. As the second inning begins, the focus shifts away from the score and the playoff implications and toward the batter’s box, where David Wright steps in to take his first at-bat since April 14. There is a nervous anticipation in the dugout and among Mets fans watching everywhere, each one of them ready to welcome back the captain and unsure of what to expect.

If Wright is anxious, he doesn’t shows it as he calmly approaches the plate and takes his familiar batting stance. He watches the first pitch go by for a strike and the next for a ball to work the count to one and one. On the following pitch, Wright unleashes a quick and powerful swing and sends Adam Morgan’s 90 mile-per-hour fastball into the second deck for a solo home run to cut the deficit to 3-1. The gravity of the moment inspires Howie Rose to exclaim, “Holy smokes! The captain is back!” and Gary Cohen to announce that Wright has “brought himself back into the lineup with thunder!”

In the box score, it is merely a solo home run, one of a team-record eight the Mets hit that night. In reality, that singular moment symbolized Wright’s perseverance and his unwavering commitment to overcome his injuries and get back to playing the game he loved. The Mets went on to defeat the Phillies 16-7 that night. The rest, as they say, is history.

The 2015 season holds a special place in the hearts of Mets fans thanks to a record-breaking April home stand, a larger-than-life trade deadline acquisition that triggered an offensive renaissance, and one of the most enjoyable October runs in franchise history. David Wright, team captain since 2013, was in the middle of it all despite fighting the debilitating effects of spinal stenosis on his body. Wright was nowhere near the player who made the National League All-Star team in seven out of the previous nine seasons and held the club record for hits, doubles, walks, runs scores, and runs batted in, but his flare for the dramatic and his calm, steady presence were on full display during the latter part of that magical season.

Part of the narrative heading into 2015 was Wright’s attempt to rebound from a year in which he posted a career-low 99 wRC+ and .698 OPS while hitting just .269 with eight home runs in 134 games. Injuries had come to define the later stages of his career, as he averaged 126 games from 2011-2014 after averaging 156 games from 2005-2010. As the season got underway, Wright stormed out of the gate and contributed 11 hits in his first eight games with a .333/.371/.424 line.

On April 14, 2015, against the Phillies at Citi Field, Wright suffered a hamstring injury after successfully stealing second base. He was placed on the disabled list one day later with right hamstring tightness, a familiar story for a man frustrated by these sorts of starts and stops for the better part of four years. The team won the game 6-5 and went on to complete a club-record 10-0 home stand, but they were now staring down an uncertain future without their captain at the helm.

On May 23, 2015, the Mets announced that they were shutting down Wright’s rehab assignment after the third basemen was diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis. Following the news, a return to action was far from a guarantee. The Mets, who had lost eight of their last twelve games and had dropped to second place in the National League East, had to make do without Wright’s reliable bat in the lineup while platooning the likes of Daniel Murphy and Eric Campbell at third base. There was talk of a return around the All-Star break, but that never came to fruition. Daily updates were provided with seemingly no tangible progress. “Baseball activities” became the go-to phrase, a sort of wishful goal that always seemed close enough to touch and yet so painfully far away.

Finally, Wright made his return on August 24 after an eight-game rehab assignment with the St. Lucie Mets. After collecting two hits in the game, including his titanic second inning home run, it seemed as if nothing had changed. He ended up playing in 30 of the team’s last 39 regular season games on their way to their first postseason berth since 2006. He finished the year hitting .289/.379/.434 with a 132 wRC+ and a 1.0 fWAR. He did all this while having to put in significantly more work than his teammates just to prepare physically for each game. Wright’s laborious pre-game routine has been well-documented and has helped make what he did during the 2015 season all the more iconic.

September 7, 2015

The start of this crucial three-game series at Nationals Park represented the first time the Mets were participating in “meaningful games in September”—a phrase infamously used by Fred Wilpon in 2004—in six long, frustrating seasons. New York held a four-game lead on the Nationals at the time and had the chance to bury their opponents for good. Wright’s time to shine came in the seventh inning with the score knotted at five and runners on first and second. Wright broke the tie with a single to center—his only hit of the game—to drive in Ruben Tejada with the go-ahead run. Two batters later, Yoenis Cespedes brought Wright home on a double. As Wright slid past the Wilson Ramos tag at home, he unleashed a euphoric fist pump. Confined to the sidelines and unable to help his team for much of the year, Wright was back and was not afraid to show his excitement. Wright added a solo home run the next night and finished the series 3-for-13. The Mets swept the Nationals and never looked back on their way to dethroning them as division champions.

September 26, 2015

The Mets faced the Cincinnati Reds needing just one victory to clinch the sixth division title in their history. A Lucas Duda first inning grand slam staked Matt Harvey to a four-run lead, and by the fourth inning the offense had already put seven runs up on the board. With the champagne waiting on ice in the locker room, Wright provided the exclamation mark in the ninth by crushing a 2-1 Burke Badenhop pitch to center field for a three-run home run to extend the lead to 10-2. When Jeurys Familia struck out Jay Bruce to end the game, there was Wright in the middle of the pile up and celebrating with his teammates. The last time he was involved a celebration, he was still the young, hot-shot superstar who was just starting his career and carrying the expectations of an entire franchise on his shoulders. Now the veteran leader of a team with an exciting core of young talent, Wright was no longer the centerpiece but still helped guide the team forward into October.

October 9, 2015

Nine years after facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2006 National League Division series, the two teams were paired up again. Wright, who had suffered through so many bad years since the team’s last playoff appearance, wasted no time making his presence felt. With the Mets up 1-0 in the seventh inning of Game 1 and the bases loaded following three Clayton Kershaw walks, Wright drove a Pedro Baez pitch to center field for a two-run single, which turned out to be the winning runs. As he touched first base, Wright again let his emotion take control as he unleashed a terrific scream and pumped his right fist. Although he did not pick up another hit against the Dodgers, his Game 1 heroics set the tone and played a pivotal role in helping the Mets advance to face the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

October 20 and 21, 2015

After taking Games 1 and 2 at Citi Field against the Cubs, the Mets invaded Wrigley Field looking to keep the Curse of the Billy Goat alive and advance to their first World Series since 2000. Wright enjoyed his only three-hit game of that postseason run in Game 3, providing a double and a walk and scoring two runs in the 5-2 victory that gave the Mets a decisive three-game lead in the series. The next night, Wright picked up two more walks and scored two more runs in the series-clinching 8-3 win. Familia struck out Dexter Fowler to end the game, and the party was on in Chicago. Unsurprisingly, Wright couple be found in the middle of the pile celebrating the team’s first pennant in 15 years. After the long, arduous climb back from his spinal stenosis diagnosis, nobody could blame Wright for being excited. Wright, who had given his all to the game of baseball, finally got his shot to taste World Series baseball, and nobody deserved it more.

October 30, 2015

World Series baseball returned to Flushing after 15 years in 2015. On a brisk fall evening, the Mets hosted their first ever Fall Classic game at Citi Field against the Kansas City Royals. After dropping Games 1 and 2, the club was looking to work their way back into the series. After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, Wright approached the plate after Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a single. Wright took a 96mph fastball from Royals starter Yordano Ventura and launched it beyond the left field wall for a two-run home run that sent Citi Field into a frenzy. Wright — drafted in 2001, called up in 2004, and a star for the better part of the past ten years in orange and blue — had his moment in the World Series spotlight. The home run propelled the Mets to a 9-3 victory in Game 3 of the series.

The Mets went on to drop the World Series in five games, but Wright’s Game 3 blast in his first home World Series at-bat was a feel-good moment for a player whose love for the franchise and the game of baseball has always been apparent, right down to the announcement that his playing career was coming to an end on September 13, 2018. With so many fantastic moments to choose from, his 2015 season contained some of the most memorable and unforgettable of all.