It all comes down to Thursday, with the Mets riding Jacob deGrom to the end
So, here we are.
166 games into the season. A month’s worth of spring training games, and nearly another month under the warm, winter sun in Port St. Lucie.
92 wins later, with sore arms, bad backs, tow swollen knees and legs in tow, the Mets season comes down to one day.
One day to let it all out and on the table in a do-or-die game five of this fantastic, yet controversial, National League Division Series featuring two pitching staffs which have brought this series to what will be the conclusion of one of the most storied playoff rounds in baseball history.
It has featured stellar starting pitching, timely, two-out hitting, nail biting suspense pitch-after-pitch, and of course spurred a debate over illegal slides, replays and proper officiating.
For the Mets, the chance to play on Saturday evening against the Chicago Cubs back in New York lies in the hands of Jacob deGrom.
“When we were getting ready for the postseason,” Terry Collins explained Thursday in Los Angeles, “we felt [deGrom] was pitching the best of anybody. That’s nothing to take anything away from [Noah Syndergaard], how he was throwing or [Matt Harvey]. We just thought this guy was pitching best.
“If anybody was going to pitch two games in the series for us, it would be Jacob deGrom. I worked out that way,” Collins said.
He is the reigning National League Rookie of the Year with 53 career big league starts under his belt. But it might as well be 253, as deGrom has shown time and time again under the big lights and in the hottest of pressure cookers he is primed for the big stage.
He showed he can be a stalion the Mets can ride thanks to his utterly brilliant 13 strikeout performance in game one, in the very same building he will be pitching in to try and close out the series.
He’s 7-4 with a 1.83 ERA in 12 starts following a team loss in 2015.
“There’s a reason why we thought if we’re up 2-1 in Game 4 that we’re going to save him because he’s the guy we want on the mound,” manager Terry Collins explained on Tuesday. “You kind of 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.”
Confidence is riding high in that Mets clubhouse.
Even Lucas Duda – who is among the most stoic of ballplayers – has expressed confidence in deGrom.
“We’ve got our horse going,” Duda said on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
The Mets horse will be facing another Dodger horse in Zack Greinke. He stifled the Mets for seven innings in game two, allowing only two solo home runs in seven otherwise brilliant innings. He will be pitching on regular rest, deGrom with five days rest.
DeGrom had a 3.27 ERA with five-days rest in 2015.
It’s all about playing for and living in the moment in the postseason. There’s no greater example of that than the final game of a playoff series, whether it’s the Division Series, League Championship Series, and the World Series.
And this moment belongs to deGrom, who is tasked with getting the Mets to tomorrow, and forcing the Dodgers to think about what might have been.
“He’s got the perfect personality for this moment,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said about deGrom on Tuesday. “He’s a simple man who likes to keep things simple and just go out there and pitch. He’s been stellar for us all year.”
And now it’s on deGrom to live up to that faith and the hype even his own teammates have for him.
This is his moment. His biggest moment.
A whole city is hoping and praying he can seize that moment.