Thursday, October 22, 2015

Believe It!

I keep coming back to something I said way back at the beginning of the season. It seems like a lifetime ago now. I feel like I've been repeating it incessantly over the past few weeks, but that's only because as the Mets keep on playing and keep on winning, it's the truth. The Mets of 2015 were a better team than anyone wanted to give them credit for. But the pieces were there. This was a really good team, and all they needed was an opportunity. At some point in the season, they would have that opportunity and they would prove to everyone what they really were.

What they are right now are the National League Champions for 2015.

It seems so strange to actually say that, and to say that the Mets are, in fact, going to play in the 2015 World Series starting next Tuesday, but it's actually happening.

They got to this point, of course, by finishing off a clean sweep of the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night with an 8-3 victory, one of those games where the magnitude of the accomplishment seems to overshadow what happened in the game itself. That, I suppose is natural, but overlooking this game would be doing a disservice to the spirit in which the Mets got to this point. Though there were standout efforts by one or two particular players, it's been a different player every night providing some kind of key support during this Postseason run and that's the formula the Mets have used all year long.

Wednesday, Lucas Duda provided the punch, after spending the entire NLDS and NLCS in a deep slump, to the point where he was benched for Game 1 of this series. But as he's done all year, Duda persevered, kept working, never complained and of course last night he came through with a 2-out, 3-run Home Run in the 1st inning to give the Mets a lead they'd never relinquish, and with 2 out in the 2nd inning, he hit what was basically a hard line drive that skipped through the infield, through the outfield and all the way to the wall for a 2-run double to give the Mets a 6-0 lead. Duda seems to have a flair for clinching games, lest we forget what he did in Cincinnati.

Steven Matz was on the mound for the Mets and you figured things would be OK for him when he got an At Bat before ever setting foot on the mound. Matz started his evening by blanking the Cubs through 3 innings. In the 4th, though, the Cubs rallied and loaded the bases with no outs. It seemed a bit hairy, and believe me, watching this game was pretty hairy even with a big lead, but Matz did what seems to be the norm among Mets pitchers and stop things before they got out of hand. He got Starlin Castro to line out to David Wright, allowed a run on a Kyle Schwarber ground out and then got Javier Baez to pop up. In the 5th, Matz allowed more men on base and this time was pulled in favor of Bartolo Colon. And, of course, Colon delivered, because that's what he does. He struck out Baseball Jesus to get out of the 5th, worked a spotless 6th, and turned the game over to the regular relievers.

The Mets, meanwhile, certainly had plenty of opportunities to blow the Cubs' doors off, taking advantage of some more sloppy play, particularly from Schwarber in Left. Part of me actually felt bad for Schwarber, who clearly is a fine offensive player but just moves with the elegance of a camel in Left Field and in the last two games this has been exposed to the point of embarrassment. Still, the Mets didn't tack anything on until the 8th inning, when Daniel Murphy hit what is now apparently his daily Home Run, a 2-run shot to put the Mets ahead 8-1. At this point, I'm done trying to explain what's going on with Murphy, because it just defies all logic. But then again, that seems to be the key trait of being Playoff Chosen. Murphy's entire career has been a red-hot April, then 3 and a half months of hitting .248, and then picking it up over the last 6 weeks. But now he gets into October and he's George Brett. It might be the most well-timed two week hot streak anyone has ever had, ever.

Addison Reed worked a clean 7th for the Mets. Tyler Clippard followed for the 8th, and although he allowed a 2-run Home Run to Baseball Jesus, it was of little consequence. An A-Rod Home Run is what I referred to it as, because it basically padded his stats while having zero effect on the outcome of the game. Jeurys Familia came in for the 9th, which nobody was going to argue with, because even with a 5-run lead and the Cubs and their fans totally demoralized, it wasn't worth taking a chance. Familia gave up a 2-out walk before striking out Dexter Fowler looking and the Mets won the Pennant. The Mets won the Pennant!

Seeing how many different names I mentioned in the last few paragraphs just illustrates my point. Yes, Daniel Murphy was the MVP of the NLCS, and deservedly so, but how many other players on this team played a part? Wednesday, it was Duda. Tuesday, David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes. Sunday it was Noah Syndergaard and Curtis Granderson. Game 1 was Matt Harvey. And so on, and so forth. Every game, someone is doing something right to tilt things in the Mets favor, and that's what the recipe for Postseason success seems to be.

The Mets, for these 4 games, completely dominated a Cubs team that really had all the makings of a "Team of Destiny." Certainly, as I'd mentioned many times, their fans seemed to have anointed them as such. They had the flashy names, the breakaway Rookie Sensation, the Pitcher that dominated everyone for months, the rabid fan base—they really were The Hot Team coming in to this series, and the Mets just stoned them completely. The Mets scored runs in the 1st inning in each of the 4 games, and not once did the Cubs ever have a lead. In fact, in the 36 innings of the NLCS, the Mets led for 34 of them. When the Mets clearly needed to come out, make a statement and play their best Baseball of the year, they delivered from start to finish and the reward, of course, is that now they get to go to the World Series.

I'd watched the game at an establishment with some friends and afterward, after some brief reveling, got in a taxi home. The driver asked me if I'd watched the game, and for whatever reason this caused me to open up and start waxing poetic about how I'd been rooting for the Mets for 30 years and I'd watched a lot of games and how in recent years it had been really difficult to be a Mets fan. I mean, you just have to go back over the 9 seasons of this blog just to see how bad things have been at times. But through it all, I and many other Mets fans remained unwavered in our love for this snaffulous team. The Mets are a team that was founded on fans that always believed. How often in some odd moment did I find myself thinking about the Mets and how it might be when they finally turn the corner and get good again. How would it be when they win a Pennant? What's it going to be like to see these guys back in the World Series? Someday, it was going to happen again. Right? If you believe it, it has to.

Believe it! That someday is finally here. And it's better than I imagined it would be.

No comments: