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Mets clinch NL East, head to playoffs for first time since ’06

The New York Mets have clinched the National League East title and a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

The Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds 10-2 on Saturday evening to give the Mets an eight-and-a-half game lead over division rivals the Washington Nationals with only eight games left in the season. Either a Mets win or a Nationals loss would have secured the division for the Mets.

The 2015 season was a tumultuous one for the Mets, as the team started the season 13-3 before losing team captain David Wright to spinal stenosis, a potentially career-ending condition. Despite having a stellar rotation—led by reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, newcomer Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey, who had just returned from Tommy John surgery—the Mets’ pitching was not enough to make up for an anemic offense. The Nationals took the lead in the division through July, and many were beginning to believe the preseason predictions that they would take home the pennant come October.

But everything started to change as the trading deadline approached. The Mets acquired some heavy hitters leading up to the July 31 deadline: Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves, and Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. The fresh bats helped the Mets carry out a seven-game win streak in late July, aided largely by first baseman Lucas Duda’s nine home runs in eight games.

The Amazin’s also won the hearts of baseball fans across the country as their luck began to turn. During a game on July 29, a rumor circulated through Citi Field that shortstop Wilmer Flores was to be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Flores signed with the Mets at the age of 16 and has only played with the Mets since leaving his native Venezuela. When he took the field late in the game, Flores began to cry and the footage quickly went viral. After the game, manager Terry Collins told the press that the trade had fallen through and Flores would remain with the Mets. Two days later, Flores hit a walkoff home run in the 12th inning against the Nationals, earning himself his fourth standing ovation of the night and a place in the storied Mets mythos.

The Mets went on to gain 11 ½ games on the Nats and take the lead in the division. But even that was not enough to calm Mets fans’ nerves, since the team has a history of, well, completely self-destructing come September. In 1998, the Mets lost the last five games of the season to lose the wild card race, when just one win would have forced a three-way tie with the Cubs and the Giants. In 2007, the Mets blew a seven game lead with just seventeen games left in the season to go down in MLB history as one of the worst September collapses of all time. In 2008, the Mets once again lost the division on the last day of the season, this time blowing a three-and-a-half game lead and saying goodbye to Shea Stadium in a truly dismal fashion.

But 2015 will not be added to that list. While the ghosts of seasons past may haunt the memories of fans and players alike, the Mets will in fact return to the postseason after a nine-year wait. But though the season may be over and the division clinched, the drama is far from over. The Mets will start their next chapter on Oct. 9 against the winner of the NL West.

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