Here’s tonight’s lineup for the Mets in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers:
Early reports have Cespedes seeking a package in the seven-year, $140-million range. The Mets have the funds, but do they have the willingness to offer a contract that would exceed what David Wright is making?
Winning the World Series will go a long way toward answering that question, but Cespedes will have to do better than striking out three times Friday night – on just 12 pitches.
I’ve advocated the Mets re-signing Cespedes since mid-August and not backing off that now. At 29, he has many productive years to go. I think they can afford to go after Cespedes, and at the same time, retain Daniel Murphy.
If they go on to win the World Series, how can they not keep Cespedes, especially if he turns it on again?
It’s not as if Cespedes is intimidated by the stage and bright lights. He hit .350 in two playoff series while with Oakland. In 2009, playing for his native Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, Cespedes hit .458 with three triples – the guy can motor – and two homers.
“If you know Cuban baseball, you’d better be good or you don’t play,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said about Cespedes’ knack of producing in the spotlight. “They played on a world stage and they had to win, so I think this guy knows how to win.
“I don’t think he’s intimidated by anything. When you’ve had to somewhat run for your life, not much else scares you.’’
Cespedes certainly didn’t show any signs of wilting under pressure after the trade. He posted monster numbers after the Mets acquired him from Detroit minutes from the trade deadline, hitting .287 with a .604 OPS, 17 home runs and 44 RBI in 57 games for the Mets.
Cespedes was entering a pennant race and knew what was at stake.
“When the stadiums are full, I try to concentrate the most I can to give the best of me and have good results,’’ Cespedes told reporters. “I’m doing the same thing here as I did in Cuba.’’
Except more people are watching and more dollars at stake.
The Mets’ indisputable ace threw over 120 pitches – who would have thought it? – over seven scoreless innings in a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS. Kershaw and Zack Greinke were to slice through the upstart Mets, but they didn’t buckle.
DeGrom was beyond special, and it wasn’t just because he struck out 13. The Dodgers had numerous opportunities, but deGrom refused to cave. As aces do, he didn’t just close the door on the Dodgers, he slammed the door on them.
Game 1 gave us an glimpse into the Mets’ future.
The Mets can only hope deGrom, Saturday’s starter Noah Syndergaard and Monday’s starter Matt Harvey, will be here in five years. Wright will be at the end of his contract, and Murphy – whom the Mets are expected to lowball as they did Jose Reyes – will be gone.
You had to feel good for both of them. The Mets have alternately tried to trade and find a position for Murphy for years. The Mets made a big splash at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they’ll spend this winter. If they have any hope of bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, it will cost them Murphy.
As for Wright, he has been waiting for another postseason since 2006, when the Mets lost the NLCS to St. Louis. Even through the disappointment of watching Carlos Beltran take that called third strike, Wright admitted he thought the Mets would be a postseason fixture.
Instead, they became an annual disappointment, and Wright had been beset with injuries. He missed over four months this summer with back issues, and the thought of whether he’d ever play again had to creep into his mind.
His two-run single turned out to be the difference.
Michael Cuddyer, signed last winter to provide a veteran presence, misplayed two fly balls to left into doubles, but deGrom picked him up. Cuddyer’s role is expected to be reduced next year to coming off the bench, as Michael Conforto will be the every day left fielder.
But, that’s next year, and next year can wait. These Mets are about taking care of business, and that’s what they did Friday night.
Lagares, buried on the bench behind Cespedes and later Kirk Nieuwenhuis, personified what has been going on with the Mets lately.
These Mets refused to give the Braves that third strike or third out. Sunday’s game was lost – that is L O S T – when Lagares came to bat in the ninth.
He fell behind 1-and-2, fouled off a couple of pitches before lining a ball into the right-center gap Cameron Maybin couldn’t hold after a diving attempt.
Curtis Granderson, who has excelled leading off, drew his second walk of the game, 12th of the month and 83rd of the season. Then Daniel Murphy, who isn’t a power hitter, crushed a game-tying three-run homer.
The three runs the Mets scored in the tenth inning was a formality, and with it, the Mets had their 82nd victory for their first winning season in seven years.
The Mets are on an unconscious roll the past six weeks, or since the deal for Cespedes, and it would be easy for a young player such as Lagares to get down on himself.
Lagares is 5-for-9 this month, with three of those hits coming off the bench. He’s started only one game in September. Those are numbers manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson will need to evaluate when deciding the postseason roster.
We know the outfielders will include Cespedes, Granderson, Michael Conforto – there’s no way they can even think about not keeping him now – and Michael Cuddyer. If they want a fifth outfielder the candidates are Nieuwenhuis, Lagares and Eric Young.
Nieuwenhuis offers a left-handed bat off the bench and Young gives them speed and a stolen base threat. Lagares offers a right-handed bat – as does Cuddyer – and defense. But, they won’t take out Cespedes for defense in the playoffs.
Where does that leave Lagares? Today he demonstrated his head is still in the game. If not for the playoffs, then for next season.
Yoenis Cespedes – CF
Daniel Murphy – 2B
David Wright – 3B
Lucas Duda – 1B
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Michael Conforto – LF
Wilmer Flores – SS
Matt Harvey – RHP