Daniel boon: Murphy lifts Mets into NLCS!
LOS ANGELES -- The carpet in Dodger Stadium's visiting clubhouse was soaked so thoroughly that a pool formed in the center of it. Mets players ditched their spikes and eventually even their shower sandals, wading through the beer-soaked muck in bright blue socks. They gathered around at one point as pitcher Jon Niese, with a running start, slid on his belly along the length of the puddle.
The Mets were celebrating. Again. Their Daniel Murphy-fueled 3-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 5 gave them a National League Division Series victory, clinching their date in the NL Championship Series, which begins Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, TBS) against the Cubs at Citi Field. They donned goggles and sprayed champagne for the second time in three weeks.
"This champagne tastes even sweeter having gone through what we've been through as an organization these last nine years," third baseman David Wright said, referring to the Mets' last NLCS appearance in 2006. "This city, this fan base, the guys that put this uniform on, it's very rewarding to be here now, having experienced everything we've experienced."
Four years after the Dodgers attempted to trade for him, Murphy slugged his third home run of the series and stole a critical base, propelling the Mets to victory in the best-of-five series. It was their third win in six winner-take-all games, while the Dodgers lost a sudden-death game for the first time in Los Angeles history (4-1) and are now 5-4 in franchise history.
"We came into a five-game series and you saw [Clayton] Kershaw twice and [Zack] Greinke twice," said manager Terry Collins, whose team beat both of the Dodgers' top two starters. "That may not be fair. But we'll take what we got. We got the wins that we needed, and we're going to go party for a little while, and take a day off and get ready for the NLCS. And it will be a lot of fun."
Murphy homered off Game 2 winner Greinke with one out in the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie, after doubling in New York's first-inning run. He then singled and added a heads-up steal of third base when the Dodgers' defense fell asleep while shifted, en route to scoring the second run in the fourth inning.
"For the entire ballclub, this is unbelievable," Murphy said. "This is such a lot of hard work. From the top of the organization to the bottom, from what [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] was able to give us at the Trade Deadline to the way guys have played, everybody has gotten a piece of this at some point. That's what makes it so special."
On the home run, Greinke worked out of the windup until the crucial 3-2 pitch, which he delivered out of the stretch, and Murphy lined it into the right-field box seats. Murphy hit .333 with five RBIs in the series. The Dodgers, who led the league in home runs, were outhomered by the Mets in the series, 7-2.
"I was trying to do something different," Greinke said. "I did [it] earlier on [Lucas] Duda and it worked. But it didn't work that time. I was pitching good out of the stretch, so I felt confident both ways. If he was seeing something from me in the windup, I wanted to switch it up."
Game 1 winner Jacob deGrom was the winning pitcher for New York, even though he was so shaky early that Collins had starter Noah Syndergaard warming up in the second inning. deGrom lasted six innings with seven strikeouts, and he was relieved by Syndergaard and then Jeurys Familia, who pitched two innings for the save.
"If he didn't show you tonight, he had command of nothing, and all he did was battle and battle and battle to give you six innings," Collins said of deGrom. "It's unbelievable. I don't know. There were four times in the game he was one hit away from coming out of the game. Ended up giving us six innings, so I'm real proud of him."
The Dodgers had runners in scoring position in each of the first five innings, but they went 2-for-13 in those at-bats, scoring twice in the first inning on consecutive singles by Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner and Andre Ethier. With runners in scoring position, the Dodgers struck out six times and grounded into a double play.
"That always scares you in a game, and you hope it doesn't come back to haunt you later in the game that if you leave some runs out there that we had a chance to get," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the wasted chances.
Turner, the former Met, continued to be the toughest out, adding two more doubles to bring his franchise record for the series to six, plus a single. He hit .526 in the series.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Oh, Murph: Save for a party atmosphere in the visiting dugout and bullpen, Dodger Stadium grew pin-drop quiet when the solo shot off Greinke gave the Mets a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. Murphy, who had homered off Clayton Kershaw in Games 1 and 4, also doubled in the first inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead, then swiped third base when a defensive overshift left it vacant with one out in the fourth. That allowed him to score a game-tying run on Travis d'Arnaud's sacrifice fly. More >
"I was able to get in a positive count and put a pretty good move on his changeup, which I don't do very often," Murphy said of his foul liner on the pitch before his homer. "And I got the heater finally in the spot that I was looking for, and fortunately I didn't miss it."
Ace doesn't fold: For most of the first four innings, the Dodgers were a well-timed hit away from breaking things open and knocking deGrom out of the game. It never happened. Despite clearly lacking his best command, deGrom stranded two men on base in the first inning, another two in the second and one each in the third, fourth and fifth. Along the way, Collins repeatedly stuck with deGrom despite multiple opportunities to remove him. More >
Thor delivers: Instead of turning to the regular setup men at the back of his bullpen, Collins asked Syndergaard, his Game 2 starter, to bridge the gap from deGrom to Familia. Syndergaard's first pitch was 100 mph and he did not slow from there, working around a two-out walk to finish the inning. Familia then entered in the eighth for a six-out save. More >
Collins said he warmed Syndergaard on four occasions, sticking with deGrom in each of the first three. Though he was tempted to use Syndergaard for a second inning in the eighth, he and pitching coach Dan Warthen had planned all along to turn to Familia for two innings.
"You'd second-guess yourself for the rest of your life," Collins said. "If they had beaten Familia, they'd beat, in my opinion, one of the best closers in the game."
Web gem: Ethier raced into the corner to make a diving catch on the warning track of Michael Conforto's one-out drive in the second inning, robbing him of extra bases.
"It's been like this the last three years now and we can't get over the hump. It's frustrating. We need to catch a break sometimes. Just didn't go our way." -- Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford
The Mets successfully challenged an out call by first-base umpire Chad Fairchild, who called Curtis Granderson out on an infield grounder to second base leading off the game. A replay official overturned the call and Granderson was safe.
Mets: The Mets will host NLCS Game 1 against the Cubs on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, TBS) at Citi Field. With both deGrom and Syndergaard having pitched Thursday, Matt Harvey will oppose left-hander Jon Lester in that one.
Dodgers: The Dodgers now look ahead to the 2016 season, which they open on April 4 against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego.