Oct 15

Mets Advance To NLCS Behind DeGrom And Murphy

Jacob deGrom has been more overpowering, but never has the Mets’ ace been more impressive. And, Daniel Murphy, quite simply, has never been better.

Together “The Mane’’ and “The Beard’’ combined to give the Mets an unlikely 3-2 victory over Los Angeles to send them to the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. At the start of the season, nobody, and I mean, nobody, would’ve bet that scenario.

MURPHY: Carried Mets' offense. (AP)

MURPHY: Carried Mets’ offense. (AP)

After Clayton Kershaw stuffed the Mets in Game 4 to send the series back to Los Angeles and another meeting against Zack Greinke, the Mets were heavy underdogs.

However, as they have all season, the Mets found a way to persevere. They overcame injuries, slumps and losing streaks, and today find themselves getting ready to host the NLCS come Saturday night.

With David Wright and Lucas Duda not giving the Mets anything offensively in this series, they somehow found a way.

“This team has tremendous fight,’’ said joyous manager Terry Collins. “It’s been that way all season. Whenever we have a tough game, we’ve been able to bounce back.’’

DeGrom struck out 13 Dodgers in Game 1. It seemed as if he stranded that many Dodgers. It was only seven, but five in scoring position. The game could have been over by the fifth. Game 1 was all about stuff; tonight it was guts.

The Mets gave deGrom a 1-0 lead in the first on Murphy’s RBI double, but the Dodgers came back with two in their half of the inning. The Dodgers could have blown the game open, but deGrom never cracked.

“People ask me, what kind of make-up does he have?’’ Collins said. “He had command of nothing and battled and battled and battled. There were about four times he was a batter away from coming out of the game.’’

“That’s why he is who he is,’’ Wright said.

“Unbelievable,’’ Murphy said. “That was more impressive than in the first start because that one could have gotten away from him.’’

That man Murphy tied the game in the fourth. After a leadoff single, Duda walked and Murphy casually jogged to second. With three Dodgers bunched around second – courtesy of the shift – Murphy took off for third, where he scored of a foul-ball sacrifice fly.

“Any time somebody shifts, it doesn’t leave them in position to defend that,’’ Murphy said. “I didn’t want to give it away.’’

Then, in the sixth, Murphy, who will be a free-agent this winter, cranked his third homer of the NLDS; two off Kershaw and one off Greinke.

“He’s been unbelievable,’’ Wright said. “I’ve seen him locked in before, but he’s as locked in as I’ve ever seen him.’’

Murphy is as understated a player as the Mets have, and he quietly said, “sometimes the blessings come.’’

Just how well the Mets will be blessed in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but so far it has been a joyous ride.

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Oct 11

Despite Utley’s Suspension, Keeping Mets Composed Could Be Collins’ Toughest Job

There are many, myself included, who believe Terry Collins should be National League manager of the year for all his team had to overcome this summer. Despite numerous injuries and controversies, and low expectations, the Mets won 90 games to win the NL East.

For that he would have earned my vote.

COLLINS: Needs to keep Mets composed. (Getty)

COLLINS: Needs to keep Mets composed. (Getty)

However, for as good a job as Collins did, his most important work will come now as he attempts to temper his team’s raw emotions in the wake of Chase Utley’s hard take-out slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s right leg.

After the game, Collins said the umpires handled the play properly. Since the umpires have the discretion to eject Utley if they deemed it a dirty play. They saw enough replays before the reversal and their no-call has to be interpreted as it being a legal play.

However, Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, after reviewing more replays decided to suspend Utley for Games 3 and 4 in New York. Torre’s statement did not include an indictment of the umpires’ actions. After the game, Torre said it was a judgment call by the umpires.

“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement released by MLB Sunday evening.

It can’t be discounted that Torre, who has managed both New York teams, understands the fans’ passion and anger, and hearing what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse, made his decision to defuse a potential ugly situation. On Saturday, Torre called it a late slide by Utley. However, on Sunday his statement did not call Utley’s slide illegal. Shouldn’t the label of being illegal been a part of Torre’s statement?

The Mets’ clubhouse was visibly angry, with David Wright and Kelly Johnson the more vocal players who questioned Utley’s intent.

“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,’’ Wright said. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.’’

Whether Utley’s take-out slide was clean or dirty depends on whom you ask. Utley was clearly the villain according to Mets players and the talking heads on SNY.

“Yeah, they’re angry,’’ Collins said. “You lose in a playoff series to that serious of an injury, yeah, they’re not very happy about it.’’

Will there be retribution, and if so, in what form? I’m figuring a warning will be given prior to the game, which should diffuse headhunting. If nothing else, the Mets won’t have Utley to throw at unless there’s a fifth game.

Mets Game 3 starter Matt Harvey said “the most important thing for me is to do me job,’’ and he’s right.

Harvey plunked Utley in April, but these are the playoffs and he can’t afford to be ejected. Another factor to consider is if they take a shot and the Dodgers retaliate, who is to say another key Met is injured that could prevent them from advancing.

What Collins must do is tell his team, “we received a bad break, but the best way to respond is to win.’’

If the Mets play dirty and out for blood, it would be a sign Collins lost control of his team. Especially considering Utley’s suspension.

As for Utley, he defended his actions.

“The tying run’s on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play. I’ve always played that way,’’ Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever.’’

Utley also texted an apology to Tejada through Wright. Utley texted the contents of his apology to FOX Sports: “In no way shape or form was I trying to hurt Ruben… I slid in hard like I have for 12 years. I feel terrible about the outcome. I’ve reached out to Ruben via David Wright.’’

Whether Utley’s apology gesture is accepted remains to be seen, but it is up to Collins temper his player’s emotions.

The season could depend on it.

Oct 10

Mets Lineup, NLDS Game 2

Here’s tonight’s lineup for the Mets in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers:

Curtis Granderson – RF
David Wright – 3B
Daniel Murphy – 2B
Yoenis Cespedes – CF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Michael Conforto – LF
Ruben Tejada – SS
Noah Syndergaard – RHP

Oct 10

Cespedes Will Cash In By What He Does In Postseason

Yoenis Cespedes torched the National League in August, but the Mets’ free-agent-to-be will make his money by what he does in October. Call it the “Carlos Beltran Rule.’’

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?

CESPEDES: Long walk back to bench. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Long walk back to bench. (Getty)

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.

He rebounded tonight with a home run against the Dodgers’ Cy Young Award candidate, Zack Greinke.

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.

Oct 09

DeGrom Brilliant In Win Over Dodgers; Gives Us Glimpse Into Future

This one didn’t disappoint. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against the Mets’ Jacob deGrom was to be special. It was going to create an October memory, but it turned into something we’ll  never forget.

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.

Daniel Murphy, whom the Mets aren’t expected to bring back next year, homered in the fourth, and David Wright broke the game open with a two-run single to chase Kershaw in the seventh.

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.