Oct 22

2015 NLCS Recap: Mets Never Gave The Cubs A Chance

MLB: NLCS-New York Mets at Chicago Cubs

There were a several times this season when it didn’t look as if this would be a Mets’ summer. Through injuries, slumps and innings-limit controversies, this was going to be another long season.

However, Wilmer Flores’ tears told us why he wanted to remain a Met and why he loved this team like we do. A few days later GM Sandy Alderson brought in Yoenis Cespedes and the clubhouse was infused with an energy the Mets hadn’t known since 2006, the last time they played meaningful games in October.

“Are you kidding me?’’ said David Wright, who long after the final out in Wednesday night’s 8-3 victory to complete their NLCS sweep of the Cubs, went back to the field to slap hands with Mets’ fans who made the trip to Wrigley Field.

“I can’t describe the emotions going through me. We got tested this year. We were the underdogs against the Dodgers. We were underdogs against the Cubs. But, we made it. I can’t wait for the World Series to begin.’’

Here’s how the Mets reached their fifth World Series in franchise history to become Amazin’ Again.

GAME ONE: Harvey Shines In Opener

There’s something about Matt Harvey that makes you shake your head, then smile and say “I’m so glad he’s a Met.’’ Harvey wasn’t pleased with his Game 3 performance in the NLDS against Los Angeles, but worked into the eighth inning to stifle the Cubs, 4-2, and after the game, said: “I wanted this game bad.’’ Harvey got support from Daniel Murphy, who continued his torrid postseason with another home run.

GAME TWO: Murphy’s Homer Tees Off On Arrieta

Murphy homered in his fourth straight playoff game – who would have thought it? – to back the strong pitching of Noah Syndergaard in a 4-1 victory in a felt-like-snowy night at Citi Field. Murphy’s homer continued his pulverization of the game’s best pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and now Jake Arrieta. “We’re having a whole bunch of fun right now,’’ said Murphy, whose fun would continue in Chicago.

GAME THREE: DeGrom Brilliant Again; Ditto For Murphy

If the Cubs were to get back into the NLCS, it would have to be in the first game at Wrigley Field, but as he did against the Dodgers, Jacob deGrom labored but would not crack in the Mets’ 5-2 victory. The odds of the Cubs coming back 0-3 seemed as long as Murphy hitting another home run, but he did again for the fifth straight game.

GAME FOUR: Mets Dominate In All Phases

It could be said manager Terry Collins gambled this game when he started rookie Steven Matz on the mound and stuck with the slumping Lucas Duda at first base. Collins was rewarded as Matz gave up one run and Duda drove in five runs on three hits in an 8-3 rout. There’s hot, sizzling and Murphy hot, and the much maligned second baseman had four more hits, including a homer for a record sixth straight game and was named the NLCS MVP. Murphy hit 14 homers during the regular season and seven so far in the playoffs. Tyler Clippard called Murphy’s performance other worldly. Unbelievable.

mets win nlcs

Thoughts from Metsmerized Online’s Joe D. 

What began in Spring Training with all the unabashed talk that the team considered themselves pennant contenders that were to be taken seriously, much of it falling on deaf and unbelieving ears, ended on  Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with the team accomplishing what they said they’d do. And now the next stop is the World Series as they await their venue, Kansas City or Toronto.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have beheld it all and witness how they navigated, ever so gracefully, through a maze of adversity, controversy and battling the ghosts of past collapses. To the unbelieving masses, they were never taken seriously, always shrouded in doubt and never getting the accolades early on that they so richly deserved.

While it may appear that the NLCS was won by one man in Daniel Murphy, he would be the first to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. This incredible series win was an all hands on deck effort and there were many who rose to the occasion.

Matt Harvey set the tone in Game 1 when he laid down the gauntlet that would become the recurring theme throughout the series and in many ways it’s defining subplot – and that is the superb pitching performances by all four young flame-throwers that comprised the Mets starting rotation.

Sure the Mets scored 21 runs in the series, but our pitching held the Cubs to just 8 runs in four games. Furthermore, at no point did they ever allow Chicago to play with a lead. Talk about putting the pressure on… The Mets became the first team in NLCS history to sweep a series without ever trailing in a single game. Tremendous.

Another notable hero was closer Jeurys Familia who pitched in all four games and saved a franchise record three of them. In fact, the bullpen as a whole was stupendous. Along with Familia, Bartolo Colon, Addison Reed and Jon Niese combined for 8.0 scoreless innings out of the 36.0 total innings tossed in the series.

And even though the Mets left Eric Young Jr. off the roster, the Mets stole seven bases in this series, more than any other team in the postseason. There was a lot of guts and guile from Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes on the basepaths throughout the series, and some sparkling defense to go with it as well. Superb defensive play from David Wright and Lucas Duda was expected, but standout plays by Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto did not go unnoticed.

In a word, the Mets were relentless. They never let up once and just kept piling on. Joe Maddon and the Cubs never had a chance, This was a total team effort and one for all of us to be proud of. I tip my cap to all 25 players  as well as the manager and his coaches, for an amazing achievement and memorable series that none of us will ever forget. I can hardly wait to see where their journey takes us next. Let’s Go Mets!

2015 world series logo banner

Oct 21

Mets’ Fans And Murphy Should Cherish The Moment

Daniel Murphy has no explanation why he has homered in six straight games during this incredible playoff run by the Mets. He did it again Wednesday night and was named NLCS MVP.

“If I knew, I would have done it six years ago,’’ said Murphy, whose first inclination when asked is to credit his teammates. “I can’t explain it. I’m just going to ride this.”

He’ll ride it into the Mets’ fifth World Series appearance in their history, which begins Tuesday in either Kansas City or Toronto. Nobody really cares where, just that their season will continue.

MURPHY:  Enjoying the moment. (Getty)

MURPHY: Enjoying the moment. (Getty)

I wrote the other day how much I admired Murphy’s attitude, but said it was time he he took a bow after all the static he’s taken for his defense. He deserves this moment in the sun.

With Murphy’s unconscious streak comes the inevitable talk of whether the Mets will sign him long-term or to a qualifying offer. I’ve written it also, but on second thought, what does it matter?

Eventually, I’ll write it again. And, about bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and how he hurt his left shoulder and had to leave the game last night. Or, what’s going on with David Wright’s back. And, what workload the Mets’ starters might have next season. Or, what GM Sandy Alderson will do about rebuilding his bullpen.

There are a lot of things to review about this season, including whether Terry Collins will be named manager of the year. (He should). You guys know me, you know I’ll address them. But, at least for today I don’t want to hear them. I don’t care about next season.

This is a moment to be savored, to be cherished. It is a moment that prompted somebody online to write how he wished he was five-years-old again so he can grow up to be a Mets fan. How precious is that?

“This city deserves it,” said an exuberant Wright, who trusted Alderson and Jeff Wilpon, who promised him good times were within reach.

“This organization deserves it. The players deserve this. … I can’t describe the emotions that are going through me right now.”

The offseason news can wait a few more weeks. The topics will still be there; they aren’t going anywhere.

The last time the Mets were in the World Series was 2000. Before that, it was 1986. Before that, it was 1973 and 1969. Do you sense a trend here?

Wright said this team was a combination of the 1969 Miracle Mets and 1973 Tug McGraw, “Ya Gotta Believe,” team.

When Wright went to the playoffs in 2006, he thought it would be that way every year. However, he learned how fleeting a moment this can be. As Mets followers, we understand that.

We follow the Mets because we love that team. The reasons why, don’t matter. We just do. It is in our DNA.

However, despite the Mets’ young pitching, nothing is a given. Nothing. We don’t know about the future. None of us do.

So, let’s not worry about something beyond our control. Let’s enjoy this, as this is a rare and precious time.

It could be our best time.

 

 

Oct 19

Mets’ Series Lead Could Enable Harvey To Rest

In addition to the historical percentages of advancing to the World Series, winning the first two games of the NLCS against Chicago, gives the Mets the advantage of bypassing the injured Matt Harvey in Game 5 if necessary.

Harvey took a line drive off the bat of Dexter Fowler to the back of his pitching arm in the sixth inning of Game 1, and already, manager Terry Collins is alluding to possibly of starting Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon.

HARVEY:  Questionable for Thursday. (Getty)

HARVEY: Questionable for Thursday. (Getty)

“He’s pretty sore and pretty swelled up,’’ Collins said Monday at Wrigley Field. “He, as we sit here today, is a go. But that could certainly change in the next couple of days.

“I was pretty surprised at how swelled up it was yesterday. So we certainly are going to keep a really close eye on it the next couple of days.’’

Of course, the Mets want to wrap this up as soon as possible, but if they win one of the next two games, they’ll be sitting pretty with a 3-1 series edge heading into Game 5.

Harvey, who won his first two postseason starts, played catch today. Harvey’s innings became a focal point at the end of the season, but if he’s held back Thursday, it will have nothing to do with his workload.

Harvey stayed in the game after he was struck, and pitching coach Dan Warthen said that was beneficial because it enabled him to keep his arm stretched out.

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Oct 17

2015 NLCS Preview: Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets

nlcs 15 cubs

The last time the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs were in our national consciousness man had just landed on the moon, our country’s cities had been burning and we were mired in Vietnam.

The Mets, in their seventh year of existence, climbed out of a huge deficit to overtake the Cubs and blitz through the postseason to win the World Series. The similarities of those teams in 1969 and those in 2015 were quite remarkable.

The 1969 Mets were built on pitching depth, as is this team. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry in the rotation and Tug McGraw in the bullpen then; Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in the rotation and Jeurys Familia in the bullpen now.

The 1969 Mets had a core of Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones, but came to life after the mid-season trade for Donn Clendenon. The 2015 Mets had its core in David Wright and Daniel Murphy, but needed the spark of Yoenis Cespedes.

The 1969 Cubs had quality pitching in Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman. Today’s Cubs will throw at you Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Both the 1969 and 2015 Cubs are power laden teams. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams then; Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber now.

The similarities are many, including the Cubs still playing in rickety old Wrigley Field and lamenting a century’s worth of bad luck.

By the way, there’s no truth to the rumor the Mets invited Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch.

jacob deGrom

WHY THE METS WILL WIN (John Delcos)

After nine years of misery, these Mets are a talented bunch, with “a bright future,’’ says manager Terry Collins. However, I don’t want to hear about the future, I want to see them win now, and it is possible with that young pitching staff. While the home field will play a role, the Mets will win the NLCS because their rotation is deeper and Familia is a better closer than the Cubs’ Hector Rondon.

After Arrieta and Lester, there’s nothing frightening about Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Meanwhile, I like the Mets’ Nos. 3 and 4 starters have.

The belief here is the Mets’ pitching can hold down the Cubs’ power, while New York’s offense can better manufacture runs.

Although the Mets won Game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles, it’s always better to have the extra game at home and Game 7 at Citi Field is enticing.

The Mets also have the “it’’ factor in having overcome so much this season to return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.

The Cubs owned the Mets 7-0 in the season series, but that run can’t last forever, as can’t the prolonged slumps of Wright and Lucas Duda.

Cubs advance to NLCS Rizzo

WHY THE CUBS WILL WIN (John Delcos)

Yes, the Mets are due, but after a century’s worth of disappointment so is Chicago. After billy goats and Bartman, this could very well be the Cubs’ year. Sooner or later it has to happen.

One bright spot if it is will be that we won’t have to hear Cubs’ fans whining anymore about being cursed.

Arrieta should be the National League’s Cy Young Award winner, and Lester has proven to be a big-game pitcher in his own right.

Speaking of having a big game mentality, as good as Mets’ manager Terry Collins has been, Chicago’s Joe Maddon might be the best big game manager in the sport.

Pitching usually trumps power, but when that power is on a roll – as are the Cubs now – it is hard to contain. Bryant and Rizzo might be the game’s best 1-2 punch, and Schwarber makes three. The Mets don’t have that kind of power.

From top to bottom, the Cubs are loaded.

I don’t believe Chicago’s regular-season success will be the deciding factor, but the Cubs can’t help but enter the series with a measure of confidence. The Cubs clinching the day before gives them added rest, and we can’t help but wonder if the Mets aren’t emotionally spent from a grueling Game 5 against the Dodgers followed by a cross-country flight.

Being fresher could enable the Cubs from stealing one of the first two games at Citi Field.

Another reason to like Chicago is deep dish pizza.

Cespedes Yoenis

WHY THE METS WILL WIN (Joe D.)

Almost all season long I’ve referred to the Mets as a team of destiny. Think for a moment of all the adversity this team has endured. They started the season losing a top of the rotation starter in Wheeler, then their closer gets suspended, their third baseman and starting catcher miss over three months of the season, all the controversies and media driven drama they’ve had to deal with, and yet here they are today, four wins away from the World Series. Why will the Mets win? Because it’s written in the stars.

But on a more serious note, the Mets will win because their starting is deeper and better. Sure the Cubs have Arrieta and Lester, but deGrom and Harvey are no slouches and Syndergaard and Matz easily trump Hendricks and Hammel. It’s not even close, Mets starting pitching is deeper and better.

I keep hearing about how much power the Cubs have, and granted they have some great young hitters. But the Mets hit more homeruns and had more extra-base hits than any other team in the league from August 1 to the end of the season. They also had more multi-homer games than anyone else. Yoenis Cespedes will be a beast in the NLCS and if Daniel Murphy stays hot and David Wright and Lucas Duda decide to join the party, the Cubs have no chance.

But the biggest reason the Mets will win comes down to one man, Justin Turner… The Cubs don’t have him. Only kidding, it’s my man Jeurys Familia… He has become a weapon of mass destruction.

joe+maddon+cubs

WHY THE CUBS WILL WIN (Joe D.)

Wait, what? Who says the Cubs are going to win? Fine, I’ll play along.

It saddens me to say this, but the Cubs are going to win because Joe Maddon makes Terry Collins look like a mental midget. Maddon is a brilliant strategist and tactician who is always looking for that edge. And he does his homework and always shows up well prepared, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in that opposing dugout. He’s considered one of the most innovative managers in baseball, having popularized defensive shifts and making the safety squeeze a staple. His players play hard for him, and so does Collins’ but it’s all those other things that sets Maddon apart.

The Cubs will win because they have two of the best young sluggers in the league if not the game in Bryant (5.9 WAR) and Rizzo (6.2 WAR) who combined for nearly 60 homers and 200 RBIs while also stealing 30 bases between them. They have tremendous bat speed and each of them can take over a game at anytime.  Mets pitchers, beware.

murphy game 5

FIVE METS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Daniel Murphy: The Dodgers still don’t know where he is and it cost them the series. Plus, Murphy is a lifetime .305 hitter against the Cubs, including .349 with four homers and nine RBI in Wrigley Field.

Matt Harvey: Being the Game 1 starter also puts him in line to start Game 5 and maybe Game 7. Remember, there are no restrictions. Harvey is about atonement and he wants to make up for Game 3 against the Dodgers.

David Wright: He says he’s been waiting nine long years to get back into the playoffs and his .083 average against the Dodgers was not what he or anyone else was expecting. Look for Wright to flex some muscle in this series.

Yoenis Cespedes: The most dangerous and most explosive hitter in the Mets lineup. If Cubs pitchers leave one hanging or groove one in his zone, Cespedes will make them pay for it. He could be a big threat to steal second when Lester is on the mound. Which brings us to…

Eric Young Jr. – My hunch is he makes the NLCS roster for the Mets so that they can exploit Lester and manufacture a run late in the game, especially in a tight one.

Jake Arrieta

FIVE CUBS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Jake Arrieta: He struggled in his last NLDS start against St. Louis and you have to wonder if the season hasn’t taken a toll. Or he could come back with a vengeance.

Kris Bryant: He’s no Justin Turner, but he can carry a team, and he can do it for seven games. His match-ups against Harvey and deGrom could be monumental. Frightening thought: For as good as Bryant is, his numbers did not match Rizzo.

Javier Baez: As the replacement for the injured Addison Russell he’ll attract a lot of attention. The Cubs don’t lose that much defensively. but Baez is better known for his bat. He went 4-for-5 with a home run, stolen base, and three ribbies in the NLDS.

Kyle Schwarber: He only has 288 major league at-bats, but has proven he can hit in the clutch – an drive the ball into next week. He is 7-for-13 in the postseason with three homers and five RBIs.

Kyle Kendricks/Jason Hammel: There will be games not started by Arrieta or Lester, and the Cubs need to win at least one of those. Either of these two must find a way to beat the back end of the Mets’ rotation, which is much better.

John’s Prediction: I’m already on record saying I believe the Mets can get into, and win, the World Series. That means beating the Cubs in the NLCS. They’ll do it in seven games.

Joe’s Prediction: The Mets will win the NLCS in five games if Syndergaard starts Game 2, otherwise the Mets will defeat the Cubs in six games.

2015_NLCS_logo

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 15

Mets Play DeGrom Chip In Game 5

One of the best things about baseball is there is always tomorrow; theres always another game to help erase a bad one. However, eventually the security of a tomorrow fades into the stark reality of one last game. For the Mets, they hope  “another game” won’t be replaced by winter.

For either the Mets or Dodgers, finality could be tonight when Jacob deGrom and Zack Greinke clash with the singular hope of keeping alive their team’s summer.

DE GROM: The one the Mets wanted. (Getty)

DE GROM: The one the Mets wanted. (Getty)

DeGrom said he’s mentally ready, saying he’s had the Subway Series, All-Star Game and Game 1 of this series to expose him to the pressures of big game pitching. You want to believe deGrom, but the truth is he’s never faced the pressure of a Game 5 or a Game 7.

This is a whole new animal.

“We want to make it to the World Series and this is one step toward that,’’ said deGrom, who struck out 13 in a Game 1 victory. “I just think we never give up and we battle until the end.’’

Manager Terry Collins often refers to Matt Harvey as his ace, but deGrom is the one he wanted most to start Game 1, because it meant he’d have him for Game 5. You wouldn’t be incorrect if you thought that was because of Harvey’s innings limitations, but deGrom has been the better pitcher this year.

“If anybody was going to pitch two games in the series for us it would be Jacob deGrom,’’ Collins said. “So it worked out that way. Fortunately we didn’t have to bring him back on short rest. He hasn’t done it, and he’s uncomfortable doing it. So we’re lucky he’s got an extra day.’’

After deGrom, should the Mets need it, they have Noah Syndergaard and Harvey to bridge the gap to closer Jeurys Familia. That’s because the regular-season bridge of Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles has been largely unreliable in recent weeks.

Say what you want about the Chase Utley play, but the Mets lost Game 2 because they couldn’t safely get to Familia.

The Mets lost Game 4 mostly because of Clayton Kershaw, but the common thread in the two defeats was another regular-season flaw, that being inconsistent hitting. In the case with Kershaw, it was no hitting.

“When you’re facing Kershaw and Greinke in four of five games you know that runs are going to be at a premium and they have definitely been that with those two guys on the mound,’’ said David Wright, whose bat disappeared this series.

Tonight’s winner gets the Cubs in the NLCS. Although the Mets lost all seven games against Chicago this year and lament the chance to put away the Dodgers Tuesday, Collins likes his team’s attitude.

“Our guys are upbeat,” Collins said. “Nobody wants to fly all the way across the country for one game. But I think we’re as excited as we were [for Game 1].’’

They are in Los Angeles because they kicked away the home field advantage in the final week of the season, but the important thing is they have one more game.

Let’s hope they use it wisely.

ON DECK:  Mets’ Bats Need To Come Alive

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.