PHILADELPHIA -- After four-odd hours of sleep, Buddy Carlyle awoke in El Paso, Texas, at 3:45 a.m., drove to the airport and boarded a plane to Philadelphia by way of Dallas. He arrived at Citizens Bank Park sometime after 2 p.m. Saturday, about five hours before the Mets would need him.
And would they ever need him. Mostly, the Mets wanted Carlyle because he was a healthy body amidst a sea of exhausted, fatigued ones. The Mets had played 14 innings in a loss to the Phillies the night before, leaning on their bullpen for more than nine of them. They were spent, aching both physically and mentally, and in desperate need of a breezy, stress-free victory.
Instead, the Mets accomplished only one part of that goal, spending the last of their energy reserves in another 14-inning game -- this one a 5-4 win over the Phillies. It was the second time in franchise history the Mets participated in consecutive 14-inning contests, and the first time they ever played back-to-back games of five hours or more.
"That's about the only thing that we accomplished," manager Terry Collins said, "was that we won it."
There was no great jubilation when Carlos Torres nailed down the final out in the bottom of the 14th, no dog-pile celebrating David Wright's game-winning hit. Instead, the Mets slowly filtered out of the dugout, high-fiving with whatever energy they had left. They had just played nearly 11 hours of baseball in a 26-hour span, and they were exhausted. In the postgame clubhouse, the Mets quietly spoke about maybe grabbing dinner. Some planned to skip it altogether. Another game awaited just half a day later.
"This was a tough stretch to begin with," Wright said, referencing his team's current run of 20 consecutive games without a rest, a schedule that weather issues and extra innings have already compounded. "We don't expect anybody obviously to feel sorry for us, but we're counting down the days until that off-day."
As the innings kept rolling by Saturday, Collins was simply counting down the moments until Wright might come to the plate with a chance to do some damage. It finally happened in the 14th, when Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo walked two batters to bring Wright to bat with two outs and two men on base. Struggling up to that point with one hit and three strikeouts, Wright lined an RBI single into left field to give the Mets a one-run lead.
With that, frustrations evaporated for a club desperately seeking good fortune.
"Ideally for the long run, you never want to play 14-inning games -- much less back-to-back," Wright said. "But if you're going to be out there, you definitely want to win."
For a time, it seemed as though the Mets might cruise to a much easier victory. Rookie starter Jacob deGrom was dominant over his first six innings, retiring the first 11 Phillies and striking out 11 on the day. But deGrom served up Ryan Howard's three-run homer in the seventh to draw Philadelphia back within a run of the lead, and Jeurys Familia -- pitching only because regular closer Jenrry Mejia was unavailable after appearing five times in six days -- coughed up the game-tying run in the ninth.
That cost deGrom his first big league victory, despite four consecutive quality starts to open his career.
"I want to put up a zero there in the seventh to give us a little bit better of a chance," deGrom said. "I left a curveball up and he hit it."
The Mets plated plenty of early offense against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, thanks in large part to Ruben Tejada's big day -- three hits, including his first home run in 552 at-bats -- and Bobby Abreu's continued resurgence. But it was not enough to avoid a second consecutive extra-inning slog.
By the 11th, the game belonged to Carlyle, a 36-year-old who had not appeared in the Majors since 2011. Despite running on half a night's sleep and having pitched the day before, Carlyle gave the Mets perhaps their most important three innings of the day, preserving a tie game into the 14th.
Like most of his teammates, Carlyle's emotions then quickly gave way to exhaustion.
"It's been a long road, a lot of contemplating maybe retiring, stuff like that," Carlyle said. "It's very gratifying just to be here. The win's kind of special too, but just to be able to contribute, you feel like you can compete at this level again and give your team a chance to win."