The last time the Binghamton Mets were Eastern League Eastern Division champions, Allan Dykstra was eight years away from being drafted.
The Mets infield prospect homered to lead the Double-A squad to a 5-3 win over Bowie in the clinching effort Wednesday night.
Dykstra put the Mets on the board with a two-run blast in the first inning, his 20th of the season. A first-round pick by the Padres in 2008, Dykstra has enjoyed a renaissance season for the club, batting .284 with a career-high 79 RBIs and the personal-best home run total.
"It's incredible," manager Pedro Lopez said of his slugger's season. "For me, when you're talking about a good story, that's him. Here's a guy that early on, he had limited playing time. Even though he wasn't playing, he was still working hard on a daily basis to stay ready. He's a great story, people should look at him. He never gave up, he kept on working hard, and when we called his name, he was there and he's had a terrific year."
Since winning a division title in 2000, the club has made the playoffs just once, as a Wild Card in 2004. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that not only has Binghamton been one of the best teams in the Eastern League, but one of the best in the Minors. The Mets are tied for the lead in wins with 81 with Triple-A Durham, which also clinched a division title Wednesday night.
"It's a great feeling," said Lopez, in his second year with the club. "Especially watching these guys work so hard for so long and be able to accomplish this with 12 games left. Credit goes to the players."
The club's success has been remarkable considering they've lost Cory Vaughn to injuries, Cesar Puello to suspension and Rafael Montero and Jacob DeGrom to promotions. That's three of the Mets' Top 20 prospects.
"It's been hard," Lopez admitted. "I really have to tip my hat off to these guys. Throughout all the injuries and all the stuff that's happened to us, somebody new stepped up. It goes to show you what kind of team we have. The team chemistry is probably the best I've seen in one of my ballclubs. These guys are like family. They look after each other and I think that's what makes them good."
The Mets have gotten a big contribution from Noah Syndergaard, their top prospect. Since being promoted to Double-A on June 23, the 20-year-old right-hander has gone 6-0 with a 1.59 ERA for the club in 10 starts.
"It's been huge, especially after Montero went out and DeGrom went up to Triple-A," the veteran manager said. "Having Noah go out there, it's been special. He's a talented kid and I just hope he continues to do what he's been doing to this point."
Travis Taijeron slugged a two-run homer, his 13th in 56 games for Binghamton. Dykstra ended the game 2-for-4 and Daniel Muno added two hits and a run.
Logan Verrett allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out eight over five innings to earn his 11th win. Jeff Walters fanned two in a hitless ninth for his Minor League-leading 36th save.
Durham 9, Charlotte 2
Merrill Kelly gave up two runs on five hits and struck out six over seven innings to lead the Bulls to their sixth International League South Division title in seven years. Former league MVP Shelley Duncan slugged a three-run homer and Jesus Flores drove in three runs for Durham, which became the first Triple-A club to clinch a crown. Gameday box score »