Oct 17

Murphy And Harvey Lead Mets In Game 1

Matt Harvey was brilliant, while Daniel Murphy was spectacular from the beginning – and at the end – and together they combined to give the Mets a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the NLCS over the Chicago Cubs at a frigid Citi Field.

The Mets were 0-7 against the Cubs in the regular season, but one more time, this isn’t the regular season. It is rapidly becoming a special offseason for the Mets, after their scintillating performance in disposing of the Dodgers in the NLDS and what we saw tonight.

MURPHY:  Does it again. (Getty)

MURPHY: Does it again. (Getty)

Harvey put down the first dozen Cubs he faced, and after taking a line drive in the back of his pitching arm in the sixth, worked into the eighth.

Here is how fortunate Harvey was … after the ball hit his arm it floated into the air and bounced off his back. Without that bounce, the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler would have beaten Harvey’s throw to first.

“I wanted this game bad,’’ Harvey said. “The most important thing was starting this thing right. I knew I had to set the tone early.’’

Working on regular rest, Harvey gave the Mets 7.2 innings, and gave up only four hits and struck out nine. He is expected to start Game 5 when the NLCS returns to New York.

Meanwhile, Murphy who accounted for all three runs in the Mets’ Game 5 win in Los Angeles, put the Mets on the board with first-inning homer off Jon Lester. Murphy has hit four homers this postseason, one of Jake Arietta and Lester, and two off Clayton Kershaw.

Murphy then ended the game when he robbed Tommy La Stella of a hit with a diving stab.

Of course, Murphy credited everybody but the hot dog vender after the game before charming us with his typical Gomer Pyle “aw shucks’’ attitude.

“This is a lot of fun,’’ Murphy said. “I like doing these interviews because it means we won. What a nice start to the series.’’

As Murphy continues to rake, so does the storyline of his pending free-agency. The Mets aren’t likely to sign him to a multi-year deal, but they could lock him up with a $16-million qualifying offer. If they don’t, GM Sandy Alderson will be hard-pressed to explain his reasoning, especially if the Mets go on and win the World Series.

Meanwhile, considering the Mets built a three-run lead, it is curious as to why, considering their lead, the cold and the bruise on the back of Harvey’s arm, why manager Terry Collins let him work into the eighth before going to closer Jeurys Familia.

If this goes seven games as many expect, Collins will have to use his normal regular season relievers.

Doesn’t he?

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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.

Oct 12

Utley Appeals Leaving Us To Wonder Harvey’s Response

You knew it wouldn’t be as easy for the Mets as Chase Utley simply taking his two-game suspension and quietly waiting until Game 5.

As for Matt Harvey, who always has a swirl of non-pitching issues about him, now has one more thing to contemplate: Should he impose his own brand of frontier justice by drilling Utley in the back if he plays?

“We’re definitely moving forward with him in our minds,’’ Harvey said at the Mets workout Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.

HARVEY: What's he thinking  as Utley appeals?  (MLB)

HARVEY: What’s he thinking as Utley appeals? (MLB)

Like most everything Harvey says, it is open to interpretation, just like his following comment, which at first means winning is the best revenge, but ends with a clipped warning.

“I think the most important thing is going out and doing my job and doing what’s best for the team,’’ Harvey said at the workout. “For me, in my mind, that’s going out and pitching a long game and being out there as long as I can, and keeping zeros on the board.’’

That’s the perfect response, but he couldn’t let it go, and added: “But you know, as far as sticking up for your teammates, I think being out there and doing what’s right is exactly what I’m going to do.’’

Harvey nailed Utley in an April game, so we know he’s willing to get his hands dirty. But, if he hits him this time, would part of his intent be to clean his reputation with his teammates?

Many Mets players, notably David Wright, have not been enamored with Harvey after his innings-limits fiasco was brought to light by agent Scott Boras, and most recently for showing up late for a workout last week, reportedly after partying the night before.

Utley’s decision to appeal Major League Baseball’s knee-jerk reaction to suspend is not surprising. Baseball executive Joe Torre a former player, manager and leader of the Players Association, knows hardball plays of which this was, and the emotions of it happening in New York.

Torre said numerous times when he managed the Yankees the players take care of these things themselves, and that’s probably what he is afraid of. This happened Saturday night so the emotions and tensions remain raw. It is easy for him to think things could break loose, especially when fueled by the anger of a crowd with lynching on its mind.

Torre rightly wanted to defuse a potentially ugly situation, but in doing do may he be wrongly persecuting Utley?

Sure the slide was late, Torre said so at the time. But, at the time he did not deem it dirty. Neither did the umpires, who had the authority to call the runner out and eject him from the game.

While Torre said the slide violated the rules, he never called it dirty when he issued the suspension. What are we supposed to make of that? Did Torre change his mind by simply watching the replays, or by reading the quotes from the Mets’ clubhouse and hearing the ire of the man of the street?

What about the neighborhood play, you ask?

It does not apply because Daniel Murphy’s throw pulled Tejada off the bag and put him in a position where he could not defend himself. Replays showed Tejada put himself at risk for attempting to spin and then throw. The spin put him directly in the path of Utley’s slide.

There are rules in place, which Torre quoted, designed to protect the fielder. Apparently, the umpires did not feel they were violated. However, Harvey does and we are all wondering how he will respond. He would be foolish if he did because it could mean an ejection for him or an injury if the result is a brawl.

Of course, MLB is likely to uphold the suspension, which raises an interesting question: What if Utley were to get the Players Association involved or pull a Tom Brady and take this to court?

Oct 11

Utley Slide Helps Tie NLDS And Ends Tejada’s Season

Cal Ripken Jr., said it was a “hard, clean’’ play, but not dirty, and if anybody should know about take-out slides it is him. That’s not to say others didn’t have their own opinion. Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada to break up the double play in the seventh inning Saturday night, and in doing so knocked the Mets’ shortstop out of the playoffs with a fractured right leg.

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

Not only did the game-tying run score on the play, but when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appealed Tejada never touched the bag, Utley was ruled safe, and with the out taken off the board, it enabled Adrian Gonzalez to hit a two-run double that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory to change the complexion of the series.

Mets manager Terry Collins said the umpires made the right call, and added his players were an angry bunch.

“You have to take the emotion and keep your focus,’’ Collins said. “You can’t lose control.’’

Instead of returning to New York with a chance to finish the sweep behind Matt Harvey, the NLDS goes back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece.

Until then, there will be continued debate on the nature of the slide – clean or dirty?

“Only Chase knows what the intent was,’’ Mets captain David Wright said. “My opinion is he wasn’t close to the bag.’’

Utley, known for being a hard-nosed player, defended his actions.

“It was one of those awkward plays,” Utley said. “There was no intent to injure Ruben, whatsoever. My intent was to break up the double play.”

Speaking of Harvey, what immediately came to mind with the Utley slide was of him getting plunked by the Mets’ Game 3 starter before he was traded by the Phillies. Utley wasn’t thinking that when he slid into Tejada, but if there wasn’t bad blood between Utley and the Mets before, there probably is now.

One thing for sure, what has been a compelling series by its stellar pitching, now has an edge to it.

Oct 08

Darling Misses Plate On Latest Harvey Mess

Normally, I enjoy Ron Darling’s insight on baseball and the Mets. I think he’s one of the best in the business. However, this time we deserved better from him when it came to weighing in on the latest Matt Harvey fiasco.

I thought Darling and his mates on SNY – Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez – let Harvey off easy during the innings limit drama by taking the path of least resistance and blaming agent Scott Boras. However, Boras wasn’t a factor in Harvey being late to Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field, but what do you know, Darling again passed on blasting the Mets’ diva ace.

DARLING:  Should have told us more.

DARLING: Should have told us more.

“It’s really hard for me to criticize [Harvey],’’ Darling told Newsday. “Half our team didn’t make the [1986 World Series] parade. … We had guys who barely showed up to games. … To me it’s not such a big thing because he’s not pitching for so many days.’’

But, it is a big deal. Harvey’s job required him to do one thing that day, and that was to show up to work on time. And, it wasn’t as if he had to be there at 9 and fight rush hour traffic. He had to be there at noon. He still could have slept in and been there on time.

In fairness, at the time Darling might not have heard several reports Harvey had been out partying, but does it really matter? Darling saw how partying destroyed the careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Cocaine was their drug of choice; for Harvey, it is alcohol. Harvey relished talking about his drinking and nightclubbing in a national magazine article. He boasted of wanting to be a womanizer like Derek Jeter.

If you’re the Mets, how do you not connect the dots between that and being late? How does Darling, educated at Yale and in the major leagues, not see that coming?

Especially when it came to the conflicting stories.

On Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said Harvey called to say he was stuck in traffic and turn around and go home. However, Harvey showed up anyway and took the questions. He admitted to screwing up and I wrote he was stand-up and was willing to let it go. However, Harvey didn’t get his story straight with Collins and said he lost track of time.

Huh? You tell us pitching for the Mets in the playoffs is important to you and you’re late? Did you forget your statement after the innings mess? I didn’t, and Darling should’ve remembered, also.

Harvey wrote in early September: “Right now we’re hunkered down in a fight to make the postseason. All of our efforts are focused on that task. As a team, we understand that there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. The chance to make a run in the playoffs will require our full dedication, energy and passion. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Mets.’’

“All of our efforts.’’ “our full dedication.’’

Once there are conflicting stories there will be digging. And, it didn’t help Harvey’s cause any when David Wright expressed his controlled annoyance.

How could Darling overlook all that? He’s better than that, and as a New York athlete who saw first-hand the falls of Gooden and Strawberry, he had to know it wouldn’t end with a lame story or Collins’ weak jokes.

During his career, Hernandez hit whistling line drives, and did it again when he told the newspaper: “I’m astounded after all that’s gone that this happened. I’m flabbergasted about it. But, as my father used to say: `You make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it.’ I just think at this particular point of the season it’s really, really not good.’’

That is, of course, unless Harvey has Darling to fluff up his pillows for him.