When Curtis Granderson reached on a walk with two outs in the eighth to bring up David Wright as the tying run in a 3-1 game, every Mets fan with a modicum of superstition was doing their thing.
As a member of a fact-based site, I still from time-to-time indulge a vestigial sense of superstition, which is specifically reserved for baseball. So yeah, I had the rally cap working overtime, and was hanging Mets gang signs to block the glare off the window so I could see the TV screen clearly as I chain-smoked outside. I had my middle three fingers up (ostensibly for "Wright" and "The Win"), and that seemed to work as he managed to hold up on a 2-2 offering that may or may not have been a foul tip. It was still working when Dubs took ball four, setting off histrionics from me and many others around Metsdom, while bringing to bat the source of the Mets' only run so far.
So with Daniel Murphy up, I just inverted my fingers ("M" for "Murph" and "Mets"), and it looked pretty mean, I gotta say. Despite my better judgement and status as a reformed smoker, I continued to risk my health and chain-smoke in the hopes of bringing the well-known chain-smoker Yoenis Cespedes to the plate.
Tight playoff games are a risk to everyone's health anyway, right? (Or enter your favored self-justification here.)
Well, as I'm sure you're aware, all the gestures and gyrations and gesticulations resulted in no avail tonight. Murphy flew out to end the inning, and then Kenley Jansen tore through the heart of our order and our fans in the ninth to make sure there would be a fifth and deciding game to this series.
Those are the facts; hard to swallow at first, yes. But this Mets team has soared over the last couple of months with grit and heart and clutchtitude, and that's what it's going to take to win this next game—not the countless desperate flailings and enchanted spells cast by the many, thousands of miles away. Even our beloved stats built up over the past 166 games are rendered mute by the upcoming one-game showdown. A ball, a bat, some gloves, and how effectively they are wielded on the vast tapestry of green and dirt will determine the outcome. Let's go.
It will come down to two of the best pitchers out there, and a bunch of the best hitters on the planet. This is their job. They're not likely to lose their minds, even though we might.
In fact, even when many of us thought Terry Collins had lost his (insert your favored euphemism here) mind by having Jacob deGrom warming up in the bullpen in the fifth inning, that move might have benefits. It gave the Game 5 starter his last regularly-scheduled throwing session, and let deGrom soak in the pressure-packed atmosphere. Might as well get him as comfortable as he's going to get with it. Was this Terry the clubhouse guru in action, and not just the guy afraid of his bullpen?
We'll never know, until we know all, forty-eight short hours from now.
We do know that rookie Steven Matz, in his sixth big-league game, looked calmer than he ever has from the outset—now, when he had the chance to pitch his lifelong-favorite team to the NLCS. He was ready tonight, snapping off wicked curves and 95 MPH heat to match the all-world Clayton Kershaw (who you had to know would be tough to beat twice in a row, even on three days rest).
It was Kershaw himself who got the first hit off Matz in the fateful third inning. It was the only frame where Matz made more than one mistake, and Los Angeles took full advantage. At bat with one out, Kershaw managed to stay alive by nicking a 2-2 heater, and then hung in on the ensuing questionable curveball call and laced it to left for a single. Enrique Hernandez hit a slow roller to second which wiped out Kershaw, but the speedier Hernandez got a big jump on an 0-2 pitch to Howie Kendrick and got to third on a ground single up the middle. Matz jammed Adrian Gonzalez, but the veteran’s dying quail dropped into center field for an RBI. The young hurler then hung a 2-0 curve to Turncoat McRedbeard (a.k.a. Justin Turner), who ripped it into the left-field corner. Yoenis Cespedes bobbled the ball, allowing the lumbering Gonzalez to score all the way from first, and suddenly the Mets were down 3-0.
That was all Matz and the Mets would allow, but it was all the Dodgers needed. Murphy rocked Kershaw for a fourth-inning home run for the second time this series, but New York would manage little else the rest of the way, scratching out only two more hits. The estranged Turner continued to do his bit, snuffing a would-be rally in Kershaw's seventh and final inning by snagging a hot shot off the bat of Wilmer Flores.
It felt like a whimper after the previous night's barrage, but one game usually lends no clues to what will happen in the next. Although it may be reasonable to expect new bridge-man Bartolo Colon (2 IP, 1 H, 2 K) to make his fourth appearance in five games.
This is not to say previous games will be out of mind in the next one. The last game played at Dodger Stadium and its disturbing remnants will be on the mind of the entire sports world as Game 5 takes center-stage as the only game scheduled on playoff docket. Take that, Thursday night football.
We await, patiently or otherwise, the final act. Our nervous twitchings and shiftings about won't impact the actors. They have carried on doing what they do even as one of their own has been laid low most heinously.
Raging blood, be still. Be satisfied.
(Insert your favored ending here.)
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