Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not Quite There Just Yet

It takes 11 wins in the Postseason for a team to win a World Series Championship. The Mets are now more than halfway home.

I can't, in all honesty, say that at the beginning of the NLCS that I thought the Mets would run out to a 3-games-to-none lead in the series. But, by virtue of simply stepping on the Cubs' throats last night at Wrigley Field, that's what they did. Jacob deGrom deftly managed his way through 7 innings of work on yet another night when early on it looked like 5 innings would be a moral victory. Offensively, the Mets got their daily Home Run from Daniel Murphy, and also some key hits and clutch baserunning from Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright. The Mets continued to take advantage of a few breaks, manufactured the lead runs late in the game and held on for a 5-2 victory.

This was, once again, a game that I was late in arriving to for reasons involving prior commitments. The last time this happened, Jacob deGrom was pitching in a game of massive importance on the road, battling through some early struggles and eventually finding himself. deGrom got an early lead because the Mets came out hacking and jumped on Kyle Hendricks, one of the lesser Cubs starters, and scored one in the first when Yoenis Cespedes doubled in David Wright. deGrom, however, gave up a Home Run to Kyle Schwarber and went on to slog through a 29-pitch 1st inning. the Home Run wasn't so concerning since Schwarber happens to be one of the hottest hitters on the planet right now. Fortunately, the Mets have the equally hot Daniel Murphy, who continued this mind-boggling Postseason resurgence by swatting his 3rd Home Run of the series in the 3rd inning. But Jorge Soler re-tied the game in the 4th with another solo Home Run.

The Cubs, at this point, removed Hendricks from the game, not so much because he'd been pitching poorly, but because at this point the Cubs just needed to hold the Mets where they were if they wanted to get themselves back in the series and my guess is that Joe Maddon figured he just had to throw different looks at the Mets every time through the lineup. Thus, he began a parade of 7 pitchers for the night by bringing in Clayton Richard, the Padres castoff, and got himself through the 5th. Fat-faced Trevor Cahill entered in the 6th inning and dug his own hole by allowing Cespedes to single, move up on of all things a sacrifice from Lucas Duda, steal 3rd and then score when Miguel Montero unconscionably couldn't block an inning-ending 3rd strike on Michael Conforto. Only by sheer dumb luck did the Mets not extend their lead; Wilmer Flores' sinking line drive to right got past a diving Soler and rolled clear to the wall where it got stuck in the nefarious Ivy and ruled a ground-rule double.

That, of course, was simply the beginning of the Cubs' self-destruction. In the 7th, their entire operation just melted down completely in the sort of sequence that would have typified the Mets of a few years ago. Travis Wood came in the game to try and get the lefty sequence of hitters out and although he got Granderson, David Wright followed with a double. Murphy followed and, no, he didn't hit a Home Run, but what he did was similarly effective as his slow ground ball was fielded by Baseball Jesus, who couldn't grip the ball and that hesitation allowed Murphy to beat the play at 1st. Cespedes followed and Maddon again changed pitchers, this time bringing in Russ Mother Justin Grimm. Grimm got what he needed, a fly ball at someone, except that someone was Schwarber, who apparently plays Left Field in the style of Todd Hundley. Schwarber got a read on the ball but when he attempted to catch it, he instead allowed the ball to clank off his wrist, allowing Wright to score and Murphy to reach 3rd. Laughably, this was scored a hit. Duda followed by hitting a hard grounder right to Rizzo at 1st, and to his credit, Rizzo did absolutely everything he could to try to prevent the run from scoring, but for the 2nd time in 3 games, Montero made no effort to try to block the plate and Murphy instead simply beat the play at home.

By the way, while all this was going on, deGrom had settled down and settled in, and after allowing Soler's Home Run stopped the Cubs cold and managed to get himself some length out of a start where early on it appeared he'd be done after the 5th inning. Somehow, he willed his way through 7 sharp innings, because that's just what he does. And instead of a short outing and exposing the lesser part of the Mets bullpen, he instead bridged things straight to Tyler Clippard, who gave up a double and nothing else in the 8th, and Jeurys Familia, who in this game once again only needed to get 3 outs to finish off the Cubs and lock down this 5-2 Mets victory.

So...yeah. If you're dumbfounded right now, you're not alone. Incredibly, the Mets are now one win away from not only moving on to the next round, but sweeping the Cubs outright. Of course, everything you're reading right now is talking about parallels between the Cubs and the 2004 Red Sox, and yes, in a position like this hearing about that sort of stuff scares the shit out of me. But the Mets seem to be a better put-together team than the 2004 Yankees, and the way the starting pitching has just whipped the Cubs so far makes me believe deep down that they can't come back. But, Baseball is funny and stranger things have happened. We're not there yet.

Regardless, it's hard to not be ecstatic about the way these first three games have gone. The Mets have basically played flawless baseball to this point in the series and the Cubs really haven't, particularly last night. The Mets have been able to take advantage of whatever breaks they could get and while the Cubs seem like the kind of team that could do that too, the Mets just haven't given them any breaks. Through 3 games, the Cubs have never had a lead in the series, and only tonight was the game even tied at a score beyond 0-0. The Mets have effectively buzzsawed the Cubs at every avenue and at least in this series, they seem to be playing more cohesively and cleanly than they've played at any point this season. No, we're not there yet. They still have to win one more game, whether it's tonight or any of the next four games. If we've learned anything from the past, it would be a good thing for the Mets to just wrap it all up tonight.

Is this really happening?

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