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?
The Mets lost game four of their National League Division Series to the Dodgers by the score of 3-1 on Tuesday night at Citi Field, tying their best-of-five series at two apiece to send the series back to Dodger Stadium.
Here are my takeaways from the loss…
Kershaw’d back to Los Angeles.
When Clayton Kershaw is on, the opposition has to simply match him pound-for-pound.
And on Tuesday, Kershaw was indeed on and had the Mets totally befuddled. But they did not match the Dodger ace pound-for-pound and came up a bit short in game four.
They now have to pack their bags for Los Angeles for a one game do-or-die situation on Thursday in Chavez Ravine.
The Mets basically had no offense against Kershaw, who was spot on despite pitching on only three-days rest. He made one mistake to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, but he completely wiped out the Mets in a spectacular series-saving effort. He moved the ball up and down, in and out, and while he didn’t have that good curveball working, he had pinpoint control of everything else and the Mets were just totally lost.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t a pleasant evening for Matz on Tuesday who had to battle his way through five innings thanks to a simple lack of command. The Dodgers had a good game plan against him to wait him out and get into a lot of hitters counts, and they capitalized with a crooked number in the second inning to quiet the Citi Field crowd and give the Dodgers an intimidating three-run lead.
What’s worse, the Dodgers scored all three runs with two outs thanks to an Adrian Gonzalez RBI single and a two-run double by new Mets nemesis Justin Turner.
That was all Kershaw and the Dodgers needed to get this series back to Los Angeles and leave the Mets a little nervous as they’re now also staring elimination right in the face. In this case, there wasn’t much for the Mets to do except tip their cap to a fantastic performance by the best pitcher in baseball.
The Mets only chance in this one came in the eighth inning when Kershaw was finally out of the game. They had two on and two out with Daniel Murphy at the plate, but he flew out to right field to end their only real threat of the night.
It certainly was a tip of the cap performance to Kershaw, but in a playoff scenario, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
It was a good, clean game. Just a bad result at a bad time for the Mets.
Not exactly Matzian.
Matz started off just fine in this one, working quickly and throwing strikes with his fastball and change-up, but he just totally lost his feel for his entire repertoire in the third inning when he allowed three consecutive two-out hits and three runs on top of that to put the Mets in an early 3-0 hole.
From that point on, it was a real slog for Matz, as his pitch count began to rise quickly and he had to battle traffic in both the fourth and fifth innings before calling it a night.
He just couldn’t hit his spots, his fastball velocity diminished as the game went on, and his location was up on everything, particularly in the third inning when the Dodgers inflicted major damage.
It’s worth considering Matz was dealing with a lot of rust after not pitching for 2 1/2 weeks after dealing with the back injury. Sure, he threw 90-100 pitches in Port St. Lucie last week, but that’s so far removed than the intensity and caliber of playoff baseball.
Haunting the Mets.
Justin Turner is just killing the Mets in this series. Absolutely destroying them.
He delivered a big two-run double with two outs in the third inning which was the difference in this ballgame for the Mets.
Turner now has seven hits in four games in this series to go along with three RBI.
He also made a hell of a sliding stab at third base to rob Wilmer Flores of a two-out extra-base hit with Yoenis Cespedes on first. A brilliant play, albeit very, very aggravating.
It’s only fitting Turner would crush the Mets too. But he is thriving under the spotlight this week all at the expense of his former club, as he has helped pace the Dodgers in the two wins they have, and certainluy a big part of how they were able to tie this series up and get it to a fifth game.
Nobody ever said this was going to be easy. And, its a tall order beating Kershaw twice in a playoff series. Unfortunately for the Mets they were not up to the task on Tuesday.
They’ll now head back across the country for a one-game showdown in Los Angeles against Zack Greinke at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. The Mets are countering with Jacob deGrom, but both teams will have all hands on-deck as they attempt to play on against the Cubs in the National League Championship Series beginning Saturday night.
Both teams have a huge mountain to climb, but the Dodgers certainly have to be feeling good about themselves heading into Thursday’s game, with the Mets needing to now figure out a way to win one more game on the road in what should be a hostile environment.
Other notes from Tuesday:
For the second time in franchise history, the Mets will play a fifth game in a five-game playoff series. The last time the Mets played a fifth and deciding game in a playoff series was in the 1973 NLCS.
Lucas Duda is now 2-for-14 with nine strikeouts in his first four postseason games after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Tuesday.
The Mets struck out eight more times on Tuesday – they’ve now struck out 43 times in the four games against the Dodgers.
Murphy was the only runner to reach third base for the Mets in this game when he hit his fourth inning solo home run.
The Mets defeated the Dodgers by the score of 13-7 on Monday night at Citi Field, taking a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five National League Division Series.
Here are my takeaways from the win…
An energetic slugfest for the Mets.
It wasn’t looking good early, but it sure was pretty for the Mets when the light went out on game three for the Mets.
They feel into an early 3-0 hole when Matt Harvey loaded the bases with nobody out in the second thanks to three straight singles from Justin Turner, Andre Ether, and Carl Crawford, all preceding a Yasmani Grandal single which cleared the bases thanks to a throwing error by Curtis Granderson.
Grandal had previously been in a 4-for-87 abyss before that single.
But the Mets roared right back in the bottom of the second inning. They countered with three straight hits from Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud which brought the Mets back to within two runs. Then, Wilmer Flores reached on an infield single to load the bases with nobody out again.
And just when it looked like the Mets would squander an opportunity after Juan Lagares grounded into force out and Matt Harvey struck out, Curtis Granderson turned on a first pitch fastball from Brett Anderson and cleared the bases with a three-run double to give the Mets the lead and all of the momentum in this pivotal game three.
They netted two more runs in the third thanks to a two-run home run from Travis d’Arnaud, and another four runs in the fourth thanks in part to a monumental three-run home run into the second deck in left field to give the Mets a 10-3 lead, sending them on their way to a laugher in their first playoff game in nine years.
Of course, they weren’t done. They swiped three more runs thanks in part to another double to plate two runs from Granderson, along with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto in the seventh inning.
The Mets needed a laugher after the stress and controversy which has dominated the last 48 hours. They got it and are now pacing this series.
A rusty #HarveyDay?
For Matt Harvey, It can be attributed to rust after not pitching in nine days. It could be attributed to a bad night, as well.
This writer will go with the latter.
It just wasn’t a clean or crisp night for the Mets co-ace. He was erratic, had trouble commanding all of his pitches, and just lacked that extra life on his fastball. He didn’t get a lot of swings and misses and was hardly dominant, having to deal with traffic for most of the night.
But he only allowed the three runs in the second and bore down in the battle within himself. It wasn’t easy and he had to navigate some really good hitters, but he was able to do that in the third, fourth and fifth inning to keep the Dodgers off the board and allow the Mets to just stomp all over Brett Anderson and Alex Wood in the middle innings.
That’s what the good ones do. They can’t have their A-game every night. Its just not going to happen. But when they’re off, they’re obligated to find a way and keep the team in the game. He did an admirable job of that, and really earned this win with a gutsy five-inning performance.
A little big thing.
The Dodgers had the Mets on the ropes early in this one, and things were looking very murky for the Mets in this one.
But with two outs in the second inning, David Wright made a fantastic catch, leaping to rob Howie Kendrick of at least a single and certainly one run to end the inning.
It’s a little thing, but a big play in this game which kept the Mets within striking distance. Sometimes players don’t produce solely with the bat, and in the case of Wright and this play, he produced in the run prevention department in a huge way for the club on Monday.
The Grandy Man was huge, again.
What a series for Granderson, who is shutting up all of the naysayers about his inability to hit left-handed pitching in this series.
He notched two more hits and five RBI against two left-handers in Brett Anderson and JP Howell.
He had two hits against Clayton Kershaw on Friday night, giving him four hits against southpaws in this series.
He had 23 hits in 126 at-bats against left-handers all year.
He’s completely evolved in his reinvention as a hitter this season, embracing the role of a leadoff hitter with his remarkable discipline and patience while muscling up and becoming a run producer all at once. He’s a pro’s pro and understands how to harness the moment, and he has done so in tremendous fashion in this playoff series.
The Mets have been talking up the importance of winning game three for a long time, which is why they wanted Matt Harvey on the mound for this critical contest.
There’s good reason for that.
The team that wins game three when a five-game playoff series is tied at one has gone on to win 75 percent of the time.
So the Mets are in really good shape after the win. Yes, they will face Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday, but he will be pitching on three-days rest and the Dodgers are 7-9 in games pitched by Kershaw on the road.
And, Kershaw is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in elimination starts in his postseason career.
The Mets also don’t have to even think about throwing Jacob deGrom on three-days rest, instead saving him for a potential game five in Los Angeles on Thursday night against Zack Greinke.
It’s not as if it isn’t a tough chore to deal with Kershaw and Greinke, but they need to figure out how to get just one more to advance to the NLCS.
The statistics suggest they have a good chance.
Other notes from Monday:
Yoenis Cespedes is 18-for-51 with three home runs and ten RBI in 13 playoff games in his career. He has two home runs in this series.
D’Arnaud broke a 6-for-52 skid with a three-hit performance on Monday.
44,276 fans were in attendance at Citi Field on Monday, the largest paid crowd ever in the ballpark.
The Mets set a postseason franchise record with 13 runs in game three.
Cespedes and d’Arnaud became first two players in franchise history to produce three hits and three RBIs and score three runs in a postseason game.
The Mets have struck out 36 Dodgers in the first three games of the NLDS.
Granderson’s five RBI set single-game franchise mark in a postseason game.
The Mets will look for a pivotal win in game three of their National League Division Series against the Dodgers on Monday night at 8:37 PM at Citi Field.
Here is tonight’s starting lineup for New York:
Curtis Granderson – RF
David Wright – 3B
Daniel Murphy – 2B
Yoenis Cespedes – LF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Wilmer Flores – SS
Juan Lagares – CF
Matt Harvey – RHP
Here is tonight’s pitching matchup:
Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71 ERA in 2015) will start for the Mets.
Brett Anderson (10-9, 3.69 ERA in 2015) will start for the Dodgers.
Here’s what I’m looking for from the Mets tonight:
Containment of emotions.
The Mets got really burned in a lot of ways on Saturday night in Los Angeles. There’s no question about it. They were angry, they were upset, they were sad for their teammate who broke his leg.
And, they lost the game in all of this too.
The club needs to contain themselves on focus on the task at hand on Monday night. They’re home, they have their horse on the mound, Citi Field will be electric, and it should be a very, very positive atmosphere for them to thrive in. But they have to control and contain their emotions and focus the energy on the task at hand.
The winner of game three in a five-game series tied at one a piece has gone on to win 75 percent of the time. It’s a critical, critical moment in time for the Mets, and they have to capture their moment and seize control of this series with a win on Monday.
And it’s only the biggest Harvey Day, well, ever.
He is pitching in the most pivotal and potentially biggest game for the franchise in nine years. He’s tasked with controlling the tempo, pace and momentum of this game, and pitch like the ace he is and thinks he is.
This is what he’s wanted and dreamed about since spring training – a chance to win and win in the playoffs under the national spotlight for everyone to see. He’s been mostly dominant in his last three starts, but expect him to be very amped in the first inning. Can he control himself, locate and get those big outs to keep the Dodgers from scoring?
That’s his job tonight.
Break out of the home field whammy.
The Mets have stunk at home since mid-July. They’re just 15-16 at Citi Field since July 25, scoring only 118 runs in those 31 games. They’ve lost 15 of their last 21 home games since mid-August. But these are the playoffs, where all bets are off and everything starts from scratch. It’s a different intensity with high stakes and a hungry home crowd waiting to break out in mass celebration. The Mets should be able to feed off that energy and break out of this funk they’ve found themselves in in Flushing as a result.
Lost in the insanity that was Chase Utley’s late and costly slide into Ruben Tejada on Saturday night were the events which followed, and arguably preceded this controversial play.
Noah Syndergaard entered the seventh inning having thrown 97 pitches, but suddenly finding a groove in the two previous innings after four bumpy innings. But he found immediate trouble when he allowed a one out walk to Enrique Hernandez and a single by Utley to put runners at the corners and one out.
In need of a groundball, manager Terry Collins pulled Syndergaard and inserted Bartolo Colon, who only had a 42 percent groundball rate in 2015. But he was assigned Howie Kendrick, who was 2-for-22 lifetime against Colon.
Collins was clearly playing the matchup. As it turns out, Colon got the groundball he needed from Howie Kendrick.
He bounced a ball behind second base in which Murphy made a running grab and a flip to second base, pulling Tejada ever so slightly off the base. But Utley slid late and directly into Tejada’s legs with the intent to completely take him out as opposed to touching second base, breaking the Mets shortstop’s leg in the process.
While Utley was ruled out, the call was ultimately overturned. The game was tied, and runners were at first and second with one out and Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate. (more…)