Daniel Murphy's usual walkup music is "Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys, and Murphy showed in Game 5 that if the Mets allow him to ship out after the season as expected, they will be making a big mistake. Thanks to Murphy, the Mets are shipping up to the NLCS.
I picked the Dodgers to win the series because I could not see how the Mets could win two out of four starts from Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. According to ESPN, the Dodgers were 19-0 going into last night when they scored at least two runs in a Greinke start. Last night, the Dodgers scored two runs. So how did they lose? Daniel Murphy and some Mets magic.
On the first play of the game, Curtis Granderson was called out at first base on a very close play. The Mets challenged the play and the call was overturned. Had the play not been challenged and overturned, Granderson would not have been able to score the first run on a double by, who else, Daniel Murphy.
Murphy's misadventures on the basepaths have become a running joke around the team (no pun intended). So it must be Mets magic that Murphy made the most heads-up baserunning play of the Mets season to enable the Mets to score their second run. With Murphy on first in the fourth inning, Lucas Duda walked. Murphy trotted to second as if nothing was amiss. But the shift had been on against Duda and Murphy saw that third base was not covered. So when Murphy reached second, he suddenly took off for third and made it easily. A really smart play by Murphy and a really dumb team miscue by the Dodgers. Because of Murphy's alertness, the Mets were able to score their second run on a sacrifice fly by Travis d'Arnaud.
The Dodgers missed their own chance for a clever play when right fielder Andre Ethier caught d'Arnaud's fly in foul territory. If Ethier had deliberately dropped it, Greinke might have been able to retire d'Arnaud for the second out without having a run score. With a great pitcher like Greinke, odds are he would have gotten d'Arnaud out anyway - Travis ended up hitting 3-for-19 in the series for a .158 batting average. As it stood, Michael Conforto followed d'Arnaud by hitting into a force play for the third out.
d'Arnaud also had a homer and four RBI in the series, and with Duda at first in addition to Murphy at third, dropping the ball could have backfired into a big inning. Also, the baseball gods were with the Mets last night, so maybe the Dodgers were doomed whatever they did. How else can you explain Murphy, not exactly Giancarlo Stanton, accounting for the Mets' third run with his third homer of the series, all off of either Greinke or Kershaw? Amazing!
The baseball gods were certainly looking over Terry Collins' shoulder when he left Jacob deGrom in through his difficult early innings, pinch-hit for deGrom in the seventh even though deGrom had finally settled into a groove and had thrown only 105 pitches, brought in Noah Syndergaard in the seventh even though he had warmed up four times, took out Syndergaard after only one inning even though Syndergard looked great, and turned to Jeurys Familia to get a six-out save for the first time in his career. Amazing!
If not for Murphy, this whole piece could have been about deGrom, who gave up four straight hits in the first inning and looked like he was on his way to another Met starter meltdown in a critical game. In another deciding game against the Dodgers, Game 7 of the NLCS in 1988, Ron Darling was knocked out in the second inning, giving up six runs (four earned) in one inning (he faced five batters in the second, retiring none of them). With Orel Hershiser on the mound, the game was over, and the Mets went on to lose, 6-0. Things looked similarly bleak early last night against Greinke.
In Game 6 against the Braves in the 1999 NLCS, with the Mets down 3 games to 2, Al Leiter did not retire a single batter, allowing five earned runs in 0 innings. The Mets came back to tie that game before they were eliminated in the eleventh inning when Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run.
Speaking of pitchers who won't be invited back to Met reunions, future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine closed out 2007 and his Met career by allowing seven earned runs in 1/3 inning as the Mets were eliminated on the final day of the regular season.
I dredge up these miserable memories only to emphasize how big-name veteran pitchers can fall apart in a critical game when deGrom, in his second season and first postseason appearance, was able to keep his team in the game. Darling, Leiter and Glavine all had World Series rings at the time of their meltdowns. They way deGrom battled last night, he could be on the way to his own World Series ring. We can only hope!
The Mets have only one day off before starting the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, so I'm taking this day to continue celebrating before worrying about what comes next. Lets' Go Mets!