Knowing a Game 5 was always distinctly possible, the Mets glowing with confidence
The postseason in any sport can contain both euphoria and heartache in a single 24-hour span, filled with certain promise on one end and a clouded uncertainty filled with anxiety on the other.
The Dodgers and Mets certainly know a thing or two about that, as the first four games of this Division Series has contained such euphoria to go along with humbling circumstances and now an uncertain future now for both clubs beyond Thursday night in Los Angeles.
One thing is for sure with the Mets. They’re coming home Thursday night. The question is, will they be coming home to workout on Friday ahead of a National League Championship Series against the Cubs? Or will they be coming home to pack up and put the wraps on a phenomenal first step in what this franchise hopes to be a long string of successful seasons filled with October glory?
Tuesday night certainly filled the air with uncertainty after Clayton Kershaw did Clayton Kershaw things to the Mets, operating on three-days rest to earn his second-career postseason victory and save the Dodgers season for one more day.
There was always the possibility Kershaw would eventually look like Kershaw in this series, even on short rest and on the road. And when that happens, all they can hope for is their own starting pitcher can shut the door himself.
“You know when you go into the playoffs that one play, one at-bat, one pitch can change the direction of a series,” David Wright explained. “So we’ve already had that mentality in the series before the Game 5, knowing how big each play is, each pitch is. I think we’re accustomed to that.”
It wasn’t to be for the Mets on Tuesday, as Steven Matz allowed two runs too many in the third inning, sending the Dodgers on their way to a 3-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field behind truly the best pitcher on the planet.
“We wanted to win it tonight,” Daniel Murphy said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t, so we’ll go across the country and try to win it out there.”
Murphy – who homered in the fourth inning – was the only Met to do any damage – or reach third base in game four for that matter – against Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen.
But despite the loss and the spectre of Zack Greinke hovering over them for game five in Los Angeles on Thursday. the Mets are certainly confident they’ll be working out to prepare for the Cubs on Friday.
Because they have their own fearless warrior on the mound themselves in Jacob deGrom, who was masterful in game one as he continues to ascend to the hilltop of this sport as one of the game’s elite and most intimidating pitchers.
“We feel confident,” Wright explained on Tuesday night. [deGrom] threw a great game out there last time. We knew going into this series that offensively, it was going to be a challenge. And it’s been just that. If you’re facing Kershaw and Greinke for four out of the five games, you know that runs are going to be at a premium and a minimum, and it’s definitely been that with those two guys on the mound.”
Why shouldn’t the Mets feel confident? They’ve played well on the road for the last 2 1/2 months, and nearly took game two against Greinke if not for the added spice of a controversial play and call.
The question is, can they beat Greinke again and hold down the Dodgers in their own yard, a building they won a Los Angeles franchise record 55 times in 2015?
But this is why the Mets held deGrom back for a possible game five. They knew they’d have to get through Kershaw again to win this series. They didn’t, but fortunately they kept another ace in the hole to counter against Greinke in a hostile environment.
“There’s a reason why we thought if we’re up 2-1 in Game 4 that we’re going to save [deGrom] because he’s the guy we want on the mound [in Game 5],” manager Terry Collins explained after Tuesday’s loss. “We’ll have a whole host of guys in the bullpen behind him. But he’s had regular rest, so that’s a good sign. That’s good for him. And you feel real confident that he’s pitched well out there that he’s going to go out and do it again. And once again, this is a time when you need your guys to step up and you certainly think he’ll do that.”
That’s the beauty of the playoffs and a do-or-die situation. Anything is possible. For the Mets, they’re betting on deGrom to deliver on that possibility.
The Mets have played only one winner-take-all game five in their history. That was in 1973 when they won the fifth and deciding game against the Reds in the National League Championship Series.
History hasn’t necessarily been kind to the Mets in winner-take-all games overall, however.
They’re just 2-3 in the final game of a playoff series in franchise history. They won that game against the Reds but lost game seven of the 1973 World Series against the A’s in Oakland. They also lost game seven of the 1988 NLCS against the Dodgers, and game seven of the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals.
Their other winner-take-all win, of course, was game seven of the 1986 World Series.
Do the Mets have anymore big wins in them? Can they overcome the task of seeing Kershaw and Greinke twice apiece in a five-game series?
“Take October,” as the sweatshirt says.