NEW YORK -- In the more than two decades since plating his final run for the Mets, Darryl Strawberry has asserted with increasing frequency that one of the greatest regrets of his baseball career was leaving New York. Given a mulligan, Strawberry would have stuck around Flushing to pad his franchise-record total of 733 RBIs.
As it was, Strawberry's mark still stood largely unchallenged for 22 years, until David Wright finally toppled it with a home run Wednesday. A meaningful home run, at that. Wright's two-run, sixth-inning shot at Citi Field gave the Mets their first lead in a 5-1 victory over the Marlins, making a winner out of R.A. Dickey and a complimentary bunch out of the Mets.
"I couldn't even fathom it," Dickey said. "Think about some of the greats that he's talked about with -- Darryl Strawberry and others. I couldn't be more proud of a teammate."
In the context of the game, Wright's two-run blast was about as impactful as he could have hoped. With the Mets down a run in the sixth inning, Wright crushed a Mark Buehrle changeup over the left-center-field fence, in the space between Citi Field's old, black wall and its new, blue one. That plated Daniel Murphy, giving the Mets a lead they would not relinquish -- and, later, prompting Buehrle to lament that "you can't hang a changeup to him."
It also gave Wright his 734th and 735th RBIs, more than anyone else has amassed with the Mets. Thanks to a security guard, Wright was able to swap some paraphernalia for the ball, which he may display in some fashion after he retires.
"It's so difficult in this game to kind of pat yourself on the back and still get ready for tomorrow," Wright said. "I'll enjoy it for the night and hopefully get some rest, and add onto that tomorrow."
He hopes to build momentum, in other words, not unlike the type that Dickey and Buehrle established during Wednesday's early innings. Perhaps feeding off each other's efficiency, the two starting pitchers allowed a combined three baserunners over the first four innings. With neither even approaching 90 mph with his fastball, Buehrle and Dickey completed the first inning in exactly 10 minutes. They buzzed through half the game in precisely one hour.
But things began slowing in the fifth, when Dickey gave up a home run to Omar Infante that ricocheted off the facing of the second deck in left field. It was the only damage the Marlins could do against Dickey, who struck out seven and classified his third win solely as "a special night for David."
It was precisely the type of night that Wright wished he had enjoyed on Tuesday, batting in the eighth with the chance to break a tie. Instead, Wright struck out against the Marlins, marking his fifth consecutive game without an RBI.
So when the third baseman strode to the plate in the sixth inning Wednesday, it was with greater purpose than to rewrite team history. Wright wanted to give his team a lead and a victory, their second straight.
"In the situation of that game, it's a huge hit," said outfielder Mike Baxter, who put the game out of reach with a pinch-hit, two-run double in the eighth. "He's a special player."
Wright already holds the franchise record with 282 career doubles, and is on pace to blow by Strawberry for the most walks and strikeouts in club history. Before the season is finished, the third baseman should also catch Ed Kranepool in hits, Jose Reyes in runs scored.
He ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in nearly every other offensive category, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. But Wright's contract ends after a $16 million team option for next season, at which point he can become a free agent for the first time in his career. Whether he re-signs will play a significant role in how many records he is able to hold or extend.
Thus, Wright's other connection to Strawberry. Reluctant to talk about his future because of his current lack of control over it, Wright -- assuming health -- has an opportunity to retire one day as the most decorated hitter in franchise history. Manager Terry Collins referred to a player who should soon put the RBI record "out of reach," though another half-dozen seasons in Flushing would make that a whole lot easier.
Wright prefers not to discuss these things, but it is not as if he ignores them. In the aftermath of his RBI mark, he admitted to thinking about winning a World Series "all the time." Wright even spoke to a World Series winner earlier this week, when Strawberry called to congratulate him on tying his record.
For even more perspective, Wright needed only to look to the visiting dugout Wednesday, where Reyes sat after seven seasons with the Mets. Had the shortstop not joined the Marlins via free agency this winter, he may have had his own chance to rewrite franchise history.
But Reyes departed and Wright is still here. For now, at least, this is his home. For now, at least, this is all he knows.
"I've developed a ton of relationships here," Wright said. "Not just with the players and the coaches and the staff, but with the clubhouse guys and the security guys, a lot of the guys behind the scenes. Just to see the looks in their eyes, coming up to congratulate me, that means a lot."