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 15

Where’s Lucas Duda And Offense?

Jacob deGrom is the best the Mets have to offer in Game 5, but it doesn’t matter what he does, if the hitters don’t produce they won’t win. It’s a simple as that in handicapping tonight’s NLDS game in Los Angeles.

No hitting and say hello to winter.

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

One hitter manager Terry Collins needs to wake up is first baseman Lucas Duda, who is 2-for-15 with nine strikeouts in the NLDS. Duda has always been prone to long stretches of sizzling and being cold. But, he’s been so frigid lately Collins and his coaching staff briefly thought of sitting him tonight, with Daniel Murphy playing first and Kelly Johnson going to second.

In the end, Collins went with the player expected to be a Met for years.

“Kelly hasn’t played. Not that it wouldn’t work, but Lucas has been the guy,’’ Collins said. “And you never know when he breaks out. As we’ve seen, if he breaks out, he carries you. So we’re hoping tonight’s the night.’’

When he’s going good, Duda takes the ball to the opposite field, but Collins said he’s pull-happy, and against Zack Greinke, who can pound the strikezone low-and-away to left-handed hitters, that means weak groundballs and pop-ups. It also means strikeouts.

“We’ve just got to get Lucas to relax a little bit – just, hey, look, put the ball in play,’’ Collins said. “When he gets it going, he’s dangerous to all parts of the ballpark. So when you see him struggling like he is right now – and, again, this is only from what I’m seeing – it looks like he’s trying to pull a little too much.’’

It’s not as if Greinke, a Cy Young Award candidate at 19-3, can’t be beaten, but the odds are against it. Lefties are hitting .194 against him; righties at .182.

The Mets’ hottest hitter in this series is Curtis Granderson at .429 with five RBI, three on one swing, but he’s .192 lifetime against Greinke. Yoenis Cespedes has two homers in the series; one in a loss and another in a blowout win. However, he’s .200 lifetime against Greinke.

In addition to Duda, the Mets need something from David Wright, who is .333 (3-for-9) lifetime against Greinke, but .083 with five strikeouts in the NLDS.

If the Mets are to play the Cubs, they not only need deGrom to pitch big, but their hitters to play better.

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Oct 13

Even In Defeat, Matz Showed He’s Ready For The Big Stage

Steven Matz pitched well enough to win most games, but most games he’s not facing Clayton Kershaw, the game’s best pitcher. One of the things I like most about Mets manager Terry Collins is the confidence he displays in his players. His decision to stick with Matz as his Game 4 starter – despite only six career starts – against Kershaw screamed he had the ultimate confidence.

MATZ: Good, just not Kershaw good. (Getty)

MATZ: Good, just not Kershaw good. (Getty)

The knee-jerk reaction is to say Matz spit the bit in tonight’s 3-1 loss to the Dodgers to send the NLDS back to Los Angeles for the deciding Game 5. Tell me, if I told you Matz would have given up three runs tonight, you would have grabbed it in a second.

“He pitched very good,” Collins said. “He was outstanding. If we get to the next round we have all the confidence in the world in him.”

That’s an awfully big “if.” It’s one thing to beat Kershaw at home. It’s another for them to encore that by beating Zack Greinke on the road. That will be a daunting task.

Collins could have gone with staff ace Jacob deGrom – he said that was on the table had the Mets lost Game 3 – but as it turned out, Matz was a good choice. Remember, this was his seventh Major League start and it was on a national stage. Next year, the Mets are counting on him for at least 30 starts.

Think of the pressure on Matz. He was pitching on national television with a chance to send the Mets to the next round. That’s a lot of pressure on the 24-year-old lefty, especially considering he hadn’t pitched since Sept. 24, that he was coming off an injury, and was trying to match Kershaw pitch for pitch.

It was one bad inning that did in Matz. Adrian Gonzalez drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a bloop single to center, then two more on Justin Turner’s two-run double. That’s two bad pitches he’d like to have back.

“To sum it up, a couple of mistakes hurt me,” Matz said. “I thought I threw the ball good. I just had a bad inning, but against a guy like Kershaw you have to put up zeroes.”

Sure there were nerves, regardless of his pre-game vow to “take the emotions out of it.” Collins had to sense Matz wasn’t snowing him when he looked him in the eye and was told he was ready.

And, even in defeat, Matz showed the baseball world he was ready for this moment.

Oct 12

Harvey Gives Mets What They Needed Most

In what was the most important start of his young career for the Mets, it was clear Matt Harvey did not have his best stuff and only gave them five innings.

Except, Harvey did what the Mets needed him to do most, and that was to persevere and carry his team to the win.

What Harvey also did was not get caught up in all the noise surrounding Chase Utley and retaliation, but instead took care of business.

After Harvey put the Dodgers down in order in the first, Los Angeles came back with three in the second. It looked as if it could be a long night for Harvey, except that was it for the Dodgers.

Harvey labored and his pitch count climbed, but the Dodgers never had a clear shot at him the rest of the game.

Instead, Harvey benefitted from an offense that too many times this season failed to support him.

The Mets came back in the bottom of the second with four. Then Travis d’Arnaud hit a two-run homer and Yoenis Cespedes hit one that should have brought double the winnings on FanDuel.

Manager Terry Collins made the right call when he pulled Harvey when he did because he’ll need him again this fall.

Collins wanted Harvey to start the pivotal Game 3 because that usually is the determining game of a five-game series.

Except in this series, the Mets still must face Clayton Kershaw one more time – they struck out 11 times in that game – and possibly Zack Greinke. There’s still a lot of this series left to be played.

 

Oct 12

Harvey Must Keep Head About Him While Others Are Losing Theirs

We all know Matt Harvey has a mind of his own, but his mind tonight had better be in sync with Mets manager Terry Collins.

Harvey made veiled threats at retaliation towards Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley for his take out slide that broke Ruben Tejada‘s right leg Saturday night in Los Angeles. Collins wants no part of it.

HARVEY: Must focus on the big prize. (AP)

HARVEY: Must focus on the big prize. (AP)

“Play baseball,” was Collins’ message to Harvey. “Play the game. This is too big a game. We need to not worry about retaliating. We need to worry about winning. The one thing you don’t need to do is get yourself in a situation to put yourself on the bad side. I understand everything that happened.”

That message should apply to all the Mets. No beanballs, no vicious slides.

“As frustrated as we are, as upset as we are, we feel so bad for Ruben, but you know, the one thing we can’t do is cost ourselves a game, and this particular game, because we’re angry,” Collins said. “We can play angry, but we gotta play under control.”

Tonight’s objective is to beat the Dodgers, plain and simple. There should be nothing else on Harvey’s agenda, but considering the innings fiasco, plus being late for last week’s workout, there’s been negative press directed at Harvey.

Until then, Harvey has always been given the benefit of doubt by the New York media and fans primarily because he has been vocal about pitching in the playoffs for the Mets. That all sounds good, but the bottom line is Harvey needs to produce in that scenario.

He gets his chance tonight, and if he’s smart, he needs to heed Collins’ words and just concern himself with the baseball and not the vigilante business.