By Paul DiSclafani:
Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley never made contact with him, but home plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed him immediately, causing manager Terry Collins to race out of the dugout immediately to find out why his Ace didn’t merit at least a warning. He didn’t get one either, joining Syndergaard in the clubhouse for the rest of the game.
“There was no warning”, a tense Collins said after the game which featured an animated and heated argument between Collins and the entire umpiring crew before he finally said the magic word and getting tossed himself. “He made an assumption, which he is certainly allowed to do, and I disagreed with it.”
Even Syndergaard was puzzled by the immediacy of the ejection. “I was still very confused at the time to why I had gotten tossed. It was a very quick trigger. I was just kind of dumbfounded. I’ve never been thrown out of a game before, so it was just kind of a whirlwind of emotions. It kind of rattled me a little bit, the reason I got thrown out. I was kind of at a loss for words.”
With one out in the top of the third, Utley stepped in to the batter’s box for his second at bat of the game. Utley had doubled in the ninth inning the previous night against Jeurys Familia to clear the bases and tie the game before Curtis Granderson saved the day with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Syndergaard had struck out Utley looking in the first inning and promptly turned into “Nuke” LaLoosh from Bull Durham, throwing the first pitch, a 99 mph heater, right behind Utley’s back and directly into the backstop, just missing Mr. Met (just kidding).
It had been seven months since Utley broke Reuben Tejada’s leg in Game 3 of the NLDS and this was already the fifth time the Mets and Dodgers have played. Utley spoke candidly about what to expect from the Mets prior to the season, considering their comments. So what took so long?
Syndergaard, whose opening pitch in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series sailed over the head of Alcides Escobar, energizing the Citi Field crowd and inspiring the Mets to their only win of the Series, insisted that the pitch just got away from him. “It just slipped from my hands. Tonight was a warm one out there,” he said. “I got a little sweaty. It just got away from me a little bit.”
Although it was no mystery that this was Syndergaard’s way of showing his teammates that he is now the undisputed Ace of the staff, how could he be ejected for not even hitting Utley, without at least a warning, considering the current state of the history between this player and this team?
Syndergaard was so taken aback by the ejection; he had his glove up waiting for the umpire to throw him another ball for the next pitch. He couldn’t even fathom an ejection at that point. “I think a warning might have sufficed before an ejection,” he said, although admitting he can see why he might be considered for ejection. “I understand why he did what he did, but I just think a warning would have been better.”
Even Utley was surprised by the ejection, but not at the pitch. He has been expecting retaliation ever since he broke Reuben Tejada’s leg in the NLDS and has become Public Enemy #1. “I wouldn’t say it surprised me,” Utley said. When asked if there was a chance that this wasn’t the end of the bad blood between the two teams and there might be more fireworks in the final game of the series, Utley repeated, “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Collins said he did discuss retaliation against Utley with the Mets when they made the trip out to LA two weeks ago.
“We’re not going to say ‘don’t do anything’, but you gotta understand that we don’t need anybody hurt, we don’t need to be retaliated against and I don’t need anybody suspended for stuff.”
Was Syndergaard worried about being suspended? “No, not really,” he said, “I don’t think I should be facing a suspension for letting the ball get away from me.”
Although Utley has faced the Mets a number of times since “The Incident”, there has been no sign of retaliation, although the Citi Field crown had been seeking blood revenge on Friday night. And with the night belonging to the 30th Anniversary of the last Mets World Championship, a number of the 1986 Mets wondered, “What took them so long?”
World Series MVP Ray Knight, who is making his first Mets related appearance since that magical year, knew that his Mets would have never put up with what Utley did to Tejada.
“There would have been a big melee in the middle of the diamond. There’s no way I’m gonna allow somebody to do that that blatantly, that blatantly. A hard slide’s a hard slide, but that was one of those slides that should never have happened. I think you’d of seen — Wally would have reacted right there, and it may have been Wally they took out, if it was Raffy (Rafael Santana) that they took out. You play together and you eat together and you travel together and you fight together. So if you’ve got somebody that is endangered or somebody that’s getting treated wrong, you’re gonna stand up for him.”
Las Vegas AAA Met’s manager Wally Backman felt that any of the 86 Mets pitching staff would have taken care of Utley. But he knew for sure that Doc Gooden would have.
“I wouldn’t just say Doc, I’d have said all of ’em,” Backman said. “The one thing, everybody had each other’s back, no matter what the case was. I can remember Ozzie Smith coming in, taking me out at second base, and Doc saying, ‘You want me to get him for you?’ And I said, ‘No, that’s OK, just give me a double-play ball, I’ll try to get him myself.’ ”
And although Gooden offered and then acquiesced to his teammate’s request, he knew what he would have done. “Wally said, ‘Let it go,’ ” Gooden said. “I was ready to put one in the ribs.”
That is until the player that steals bases signs the big contract! That’s when the base stealing drops off dramatically. This is a trend that I have noticed over the last several years in Major League Baseball. It appears to me that once a player signs his first large deal for tens of millions of dollars you can bet the farm that the stolen base part of that player’s game is only going in one direction, down. Generally speaking the player received that contract, in part at least, because of his ability to steal bases as demonstrated in previous seasons. It is part of the player’s offensive game and surely used by agents as a positive stat during negotiations for that big contract. My research shows that most of the time the player’s stolen base production drops off before the ink is even dry on that deal. Some of them stop running for no known reason such as the case of Mike Trout. Then there are other players that appear to be concerned about injury risks so they reduce the attempted steals. Then there are players such as Bryce Harper who should be stealing 25+ bases a year given his age and speed but simply choose not to run. Harper is still a couple years away from his first big contract. Perhaps he will start running in 2016 as he starts his contract / arbitration drive. Harper is arbitration eligible in 2017. Usually there is a 3 to 5 year window of when players will rack up some pretty good stolen base numbers. After that it is likely the steals will start to go down.
Stolen bases are the one category that a player chooses to either be all in or all out or somewhere in between. Players don’t stop trying to get hits, they don’t stop trying to hit homeruns and they surely don’t stop trying to drive in runs. However, they do eventually stop trying to steal bases at the rate they did before. Maybe the players are afraid to get hurt after signing the big contract and can you blame them? Bryce Harper has already missed significant playing time in his career from injuries sustained while running the bases. Is it possible that the team has asked the player not to steal bases for fear of injury to their big investment? That possibility does exist. I looked at some players that were signed to large contracts and what the trend was with their stolen base production before and after the new contract started. The results of my findings might surprise you.
The most recent example of a player with dramatic stolen base drop off after signing the big contract is Mike Trout. In the two seasons prior to 2014 he averaged 41 stolen bases. Trout signed a 6 year / $144 million dollar deal prior to the start of the 2014 season. In 2014 he stole 16 bases and in 2015 he was down to 11. Trout has not even turned 25 years old yet. He is a little young to be wasting of one of his strongest talents. Trout has played every day throughout his career and has proven to be very durable. Some other examples of base stealers that stop running from recent years that comes to mind:
Melvin Upton – Padres
In the 5 years prior to signing a 5 year / $73 million deal before 2013 Upton averaged 39 stolen bases a season. In the three seasons after signing the deal Upton now is averaging 13 stolen bases a season.
Matt Kemp – Padres
In the 4 years prior to signing his big contract Kemp averaged 32 stolen bases per year. Before the start of the 2012 season Kemp signed an 8 year / $160 million dollar contract. He stole 9 bases in 2012, 9 in 2013, 8 in 2014 and 12 in 2015. You can safely say that he will never reach 20 SB’s again let alone 30 SB’s a season.
Andrew McCutchen – Pirates
In the 4 years prior and including his MVP season of 2013 McCutchen was averaging 25 steals a season. He signed his first big contract prior to the 2012 season. But in the last two seasons McCutchen is now averaging 14 steals a season. McCutchen is 28 years old.
Starlin Castro – Cubs
In 2011 and 2012 Castro averaged 23 stolen bases as an emerging star in the league. Toward the end of the 2012 season he signed a 7 year / $60 million dollar deal. The following year in 2013 he stole 9 bases. He stole 4 bases in 2014 and 5 in 2015. I think Castro is done running at age 25.
Carl Crawford – Dodgers
In the 8 seasons prior to signing his 7 year / $142 million dollar contract with the Red Sox before the 2011 season Crawford averaged 50 steals per year. He dropped off to 18 in the first year of the deal and has averaged 14 in the 5 seasons since the deal started. He is the poster child for a team never again paying a player for stolen bases. Injuries played a big part in this drop off but the facts remain what they are. He signed the deal and stopped stealing bases.
Jacoby Ellsbury – Yankees
In the season prior to his signing of a 7 year and $153 million deal in 2014 Ellsbury stole 52 bases. He dropped off to 39 in 2014 and then 21 this past season. He might not be done stealing bases yet but it looks like he may be getting close to it.
Michael Bourn – Braves
In the 4 years prior to signing his 4 year / $48 million dollar deal Bourn averaged 54 steals per year. In the first year ( 2013 ) of his first big contract he stole 23 bases. In 2014 he stole 17 and then only 10 bases in 2015. One of the biggest reasons the Indians signed Bourn was his speed. He has already been traded away to the Braves as the Indians certainly did not get the sort of production in steals that they signed up for.
Carlos Beltran – Yankees
This is example goes back a little ways but another example nonetheless. In the 2 years prior to his big free agent signing with the Mets he averaged 41 stolen bases a season. Prior to the 2005 season he signed his 7 year / $119 million dollar deal. His steals dropped off to only 17 that first season of the new contract. He has only reached 20 steals twice since then and has now aged out of the running game. He ran very hard for the money and when he got the money he stopped running.
In all of these cases the drop off in steals in the first year after the big contract is signed is 50% or more. There are many other examples as well. Whether the reasons are injuries, bad offensive season, different lineup etc. the facts still remains that stolen bases should not be counted on by a team when evaluating a player’s contract. The players and agents have no problem running off with the money. It’s the stolen bases they seemed to stop running for.
Tonight when the Mets Matt Harvey takes the mound at Citi Field in game 3 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Mets he could very well define his future as a Met and his career in general. Prior to the return of Matt Harvey this year after missing all of 2014 and the end of 2013 to Tommy John surgery Harvey had already achieved god like status. The hapless Mets looked for hope in a team that was going nowhere fast each year. Harvey provided the light at the end of the tunnel and that hope. Harvey was the lone beacon of light in dismal darkness. Fans waited patiently as he rehabbed for his return to the mound in 2015. Prior to the surgery Harvey spoke quickly and confidently about what he wanted and what his goals were. Met fans liked that. He was the definition of a gamer. Then this year there have been some missteps along the way. The biggest one being the announcement in August by Harvey’s agent Scott Boras that he wanted to shut him down in September and the playoffs due to “doctors orders” on innings limits. Boras was talking like anybody has any idea what innings pitched really means. Some innings are 10 pitches and some are 30 pitches. Nobody has figured out any real scientific numbers on what is acceptable. The biggest problem that I had with that was not so much what Boras said but what Harvey said or did not say in this case. It seemed like 48 hours went by before Harvey commented. When he did he sounded like a beaten man. “My agent is looking out for me…. He has my best interests in mind….” That sounds great but Met fans don’t really care about what the agent thinks because agents are motivated by money not really about a player helping a team win. Fans and management are motivated by performance and helping a team win. Harvey damaged is image and credibility on all fronts after this incident. Met fans have a bad taste in their mouths right now regarding Matt Harvey.
Now Matt Harvey, the “Dark Knight Light” must take the mound and attempt to put the Mets in a position where they can close out the Dodgers tomorrow and advance to the NLCS. The goal for Harvey tonight is not to start hitting players in retaliation for Chase Utley breaking Ruben Tejada’s leg on a dirty take out slide at second base in game 2 on Saturday. The goal is to pitch 8 innings and give the ball to Familia. A year ago I would have told you that Matt Harvey will never be booed at Citi Field ever! Today I am not so sure about that. His image has taken a hit with Met fans and that was compounded when he missed a team workout before the playoffs started under very murky circumstances. There is only one way for Harvey to get back to being the “Dark Knight”. He has to pitch well and the Mets have to win. Anything less than a great performance would be a disaster for Harvey. He put himself in this position so I for one have no sympathy for him. If you want to be the main man you have to perform at key times. Curt Schilling and Andy Pettite come to mind. It is time for Matt Harvey to have his defining moment in his career and the Met’s need it tonight more than ever. My gut tells me he will be up for the task. If Harvey falters it could alter his Met career dramatically.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Major League Baseball has suspended Dodgers infielder Chase Utley for the next two games of the NLDS after the league deemed he made an illegal slide into Reuben Tejada, fracturing his fibula.
During his press conference in the aftermath of the Dodger’s 5-2 win in Game 2 that evened the series, when asked point-blank if he thought the play was dirty, Torre hinted at what might come in the future. “I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that is in question now.”
After further review, all the fans, media and players that have been blowing up social media sites were right after all. It was a dirty play.
“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement. “While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a) (13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.”
Most of the baseball community felt that this suspension was justified, but don’t ask that to the Los Angeles Times. The Times blasted MLB with a headline of “MLB Overreacts with two-game suspension of Chase Utley”.
The quoted Mattingly as saying, If it had been their guy, they would be saying, ‘David Wright, he he’s a gamer. He went after him. That’s the way you gotta play.’ But it’s our guy. It’s different. If David would have done it, it’s wouldn’t have been any problem here in New York.
“Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays,” Mattingly continued, ”We love the way he plays. Let’s say he (Tejada) didn’t get hurt. There would be rumblings, but it goes away. But since someone got hurt, now it’s a story.”
Mattingly and the Dodgers just don’t seem to get what the rest of the baseball world is complaining about. What Utley did was just plain dirty. He ran full speed into Tejada without even attempting to slide. It was obvious on the replay that he wasn’t just playing “hard-nosed” baseball and trying to break up the double play. That’s what Torre said in his statement.
Of course Utley’s agent, Joel Wolfe, didn’t get the gist of the issue either as he said in a statement, “Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play. “We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions. Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada’s injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody.”
It wasn’t about his intent to injure. Nobody truly believes that Utley went into that situation trying to hurt Tejada. But that was a result of his actions and he needs to take responsibility.
The Mets had a different approach and supported the decision, although nothing will bring Tejada back for the series. ” We (The Mets) feel this was the appropriate course of action,” the team said in a statement. “With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball.”
Utley will most likely have his appeal heard early Monday morning. If the appeal is upheld, Utley will be eligible to play in Game 3.
Let’s see if he has the guts to come out of the dugout.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Instead of talking about the great pitching performance by the Mets Jacob deGrom and two home runs off Zack Grienke, the focus of players, media and Major League Baseball centered around the “take-out” slide Chase Utley employed against Reuben Tejada in Game 2 of the NLDS, effectively changing the course of the game and ending Tejada’s season with a broken fibula.
“’Slide’ would be generous” said Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had the best view of the play some are calling “hard-nosed” while most are calling just plain dirty. When asked what he thought of Utley’s slide, Michael Cuddyer said, “He hit Tejada before he hit the ground. That’s not a slide, it’s a tackle. It’s up to you to decide if tackling is legal in baseball”
Infielder Kelly Johnson was incredulous when he was asked about “The Slide”. “How is it a slide if he hits the player first? If he hits the dirt first, I don’t have anything to say. He has a broken leg because he was crushed”
Mets manager Terry Collins, ever the politician, had some things to say through gritted teeth when asked what he thought. “He broke my shortstop’s leg, that’s all I know.”
Even Major League Baseball didn’t know what to make of it in a bizarre post game press conference with the league’s Chief Baseball Officer, former Yankee skipper Joe Torre. After fumbling around for words to explain how Utley could be called safe when he never even touched the bag and insinuating, incorrectly, that any Met with the ball could have tagged him out as he went off the field – even in the dugout – , Torre touched on the slide itself. “The lateness of the slide, that concerns me.” Torre said. “But we’re still talking about it. I’m still in charge of determining if it was an over-the-top thing. I’m looking at it to see if there’s anything that should be done.”
Utley and the Dodgers, of course, didn’t feel there was anything wrong about the slide that broke up the double play and allowed the Dodgers to tie the game 2-2, eventually leading to a four run innings and a 5-2 win that tied the NLDS at one game apiece.
“The tying run is on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play,” Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever. I didn’t realize his back was turned. It happened so fast.”
Dodger manager Don Mattingly backs up Utley’s claim. “I know Chase is not trying to hurt anybody,” he said. “He’s just playing the game the way he plays it. He plays it hard, he’s aggressive.”
None of that nonsense is going to cut it in the Mets locker room.
Utley’s “slide” started as he arrived at the bag, not before it. He didn’t even hit the ground until he hit Tejada at full force with a rolling, cross body block. As a second baseman by trade, Utley should understand the difference between a clean, hard slide trying to break up a double play and what happened in this game. But Utley has a history of taking out runners at second in this fashion during his 13-year career, being accused of the same thing against Tejada back in 2010.
“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,” David Wright said back then. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.”
Kelly Johnson, an infielder who has played both short and second, was livid after the game. He wasn’t questioning Utley’s desire to play hard, it was the method of delivery.
“Chase is playing hard,” he said. “He’s doing his thing. He’s in the moment. That’s not the issue. The issue is he hit our shortstop first before hitting dirt. The question is at, one, is that illegal? At what point do we say, ‘Hey, man, we missed something here.’ We’ve got rules at home plate to protect our guys. What’s the difference? Ruben stuck his neck out there to make a play to try to get the bag and then to turn to make a throw. And before he can get the ball out of the glove he’s getting tackled.”
Even players not involved in the game, got into the game via social media. Padres outfielder Justin Upton said, “If that was a superstar shortstop (like Troy Tulowitzski), we would have a “Tulo” rule being enforced tomorrow”, referencing baseball’s new rule protecting catchers that is called “The Buster Posey” rule.
The subject of protecting certain players over others didn’t sit well with Johnson, either. “I want to know why there’s not something in place to protect us (infielders),” Johnson said. “and not jump into, break fibulas and knock people out of the game.”
In the TBS broadcast booth, Mets SNY announcer Ron Darling compared the play to football. “If this was the NFL, Uutley would have been flagged for interference on a defenseless receiver.”
When asked point-blank if he thought the play was dirty, Torre hinted at what might come in the future. “I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that is in question now.”
And what was Utley’s intent? Wright can’t help you. “Only Chase knows what his intent was,” said the Mets Captain, “You’re going to have to as Chase what the intent was. Reuben had his back to him and couldn’t protect himself. When he’s running to second base with Reuben’s back turned, I don’t know what his intent was.”
Game 3 is Monday night at Citi Field with Matt Harvey on the mound for the Mets. You think Chase Utley gets into the batter’s box? Enough said…
By: Paul DiSclafani
Chase Utley continues to haunt the Mets, even though he is now living 2,500 miles away. The former Phillie took out Reuben Tejada at second base as he tried to turn a double play in the seventh inning, leading to four runs and helping the Dodgers tie the NLDS, beating the Mets 5-2.
The Mets were protecting a 2-1 lead in the seventh, thanks to second inning home runs from Yoenis Cespedes and rookie Michael Conforto, when Bartolo Colon relieved starter Noah Syndergaard with runners on first and third with one out. Colon got Howie Kendrick to tap one over second base that Daniel Murphy tracked down and flipped to Reuben Tejada for the force at second. But Utley barreled into Tejada as he spun around to try and complete the double play, knocking him to the ground and allowing Enrique Hernandez to score from third and tie the game 2-2.
As Tejada lay on the ground in pain, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged the call at second. X-Rays revealed that Tejada has a fractured right fibula, ending his post season. Looking at the replay, Utley never made contact with the base and went right at Tejada, flipping him like a helpless NFL receiver making a catch.
After reviewing the play, the out was overturned as it was ruled that Tejada never touched the base. Utley was put back at second – even though he never touched the base – because if a call is overturned, the umpires can put the runners back on base.
With first and second and still one out, Addison Reed relieved Colon and got Corey Seager to fly out to left for what should have been the final out of the inning. Instead, Adrian Gonzalez, who had struck out three times against Syndergaard, pulled a double down the line in right, scoring both Utley and Kendrick and giving the Dodgers their first lead of the series, 4-2. Justin Turner then doubles into the right field gap, scoring Gonzalez to make it 5-2.
The Mets never recovered.
Replays showed that Utley came into Tejada hard, not even beginning to slide until he was passed the base. This will be discussed for the next couple of days as to if this was a dirty play. When asked after the game if he felt the play was dirty, Mets manager Terry Collins said, “It (the play) broke my shortstop’s leg, that’s all I know. It’s over, it’s done, There’s nothing we can do about it. My argument was that is was a roll block and he didn’t touch the bag, but the umpires said they reviewed the whole thing. They handled the call right.”
The Utley play and the Mets unraveling in the seventh overshadowed the great performance from Syndergaard. Although he was charged with three runs – he was responsible for the two that scored in the seventh – Syndergaard was dealing the entire game, mixing pitches and blowing the Dodgers away with 100 mph fastballs. Syndergaard struck out 9. But he was working long counts and was up to 115 pitches
The Mets got to Cy Young candidate Zack Grienke early, touching him for two runs in the second inning on solo home runs from Cespedes and Conforto. Conforto’s home run was a rocket off the foul pole in his first ever postseason plate appearance. Cespedes has not hit a home run in 60 AB’s.
But the Mets couldn’t put anything together against Grienke or the Dodger bullpen the rest of the way, managing just five hits.
Now the series switches to Citi Field and the Mets are not going to forget a borderline dirty play that cost them their shortstop. Matt Harvey will be on the mound for Game 3. A series that seemed to be going the Mets way because of their pitching just took a wrong turn.
POSITIVES: Curtis Granderson had two of the Mets five hits and also worked out a walk … Jonathan Niese got his first relief appearance, getting the final out in that miserable seventh … Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out 2 … Mets pitchers have struck out 25 Dodgers in two games.
NEGATIVES: David Wright hit into two double plays following Granderson hits … Without Tejada, Wilmer Flores will have to play short. This not only weakens the defense up the middle, but removes his bat off the bench. Juan Uribe is not available. Mets only had two runners in scoring position all game.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Daniel Murphy goes deep against Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom strikes out 13 in seven shutout innings as the Mets take Game One of the NLDS against the Dodgers out in Los Angeles, 3-1. It’s the Mets first postseason appearance in nine years.
Talk about a pitcher’s duel, this was a strikeout duel as Kershaw and deGrom put on a show, combining for 24 K’s. But it was the neophyte deGrom who outpitched the veteran Kershaw.
The reigning 2014 Rookie of The Year pitched seven shutout innings, striking out a season high 13 batters and walking just one. He set a major league record becoming the first pitcher to strikeout six batters in his first two postseason innings. He also set a Mets franchise record by striking out 10 in his postseason debut.
DeGrom was in trouble early, when former Met Justin Turner lined a ball to Michael Cuddyer in left that was mis-played into a double leading off the second inning, but he strikes out Andre Ethier and AJ Ellis before intentionally walking Joc Pederson to get to Kersaw, who he struck out.
In the third, deGrom gets the first two outs quickly on just five pitches, then Corey Seager slices one to the opposite field that Cuddyer mis-plays again for a ground rule double, the Dodger’s third hit. DeGrom gets out of it again, striking out Adrian Gonzalez. LA is now 0-4 w/RISP and 3K’s.
Then came the thunder. Murphy takes Kershaw deep to right on a 2-0 pitch for a home run to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Murphy hit a career high 14 home runs this season, but only one off a left-hander. The ball went deep into the Mets bullpen for Murphy’s first postseason dinger.
The Mets couldn’t muster any offense against Kershaw, but they did get a runner on in each of the first five innings. Meanwhile, deGrom was still dealing with trouble. After Turner got his second hit of the game leading off the fourth, AJ Ellis also singled and the Dodgers had runners in scoring position for the third straight inning. Joc Pederson flied out for the second out, then deGrom got Kershaw to end the inning, but he gave it a ride to deep center for the final out.
Kershaw just kept ringing the Mets up, striking out the side in the fifth for his 11th K of the game and getting his first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. But things began to unravel for him in the seventh.
Lucas Duda drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Cuddyer’s grounder to third. Duda became the Mets first base runner in scoring position. With Reuben Tejada up and deGrom on deck, Terry Collins had a tough decision to make. If Tejada makes the second out, does he pinch hit for deGrom, who had already thrown 101 pitches?
Instead, Tejada works out a walk to put two runners on and keep deGrom in the game, as he sacrifices the runners to second and third for Granderson, who already had two hits. Kershaw gets ahead of Granderson 1-2, but he works out a walk to load the bases and that ends Kershaw’s night. Manager Don Mattingly replaces Kershaw with Pedro Baez to face David Wright. With a full count and the runners moving, Wright, who waited nine years for this moment, lines a single to center, driving in two and giving the Mets a huge 3-0 lead. Mets got only one hit in the inning, but it was the only hit they needed.
The Dodgers did get a run in the 8th against Tyler Clippard to make it 3-1, but Jeurys Familia came in to get a four-out save and give the Mets a 1-0 lead in this series.
Rookie Noah Syndergaard gets the start in Game Two of the series tomorrow night against CY Young candidate, right hander Zack Grienke and his regular season 1.86 ERA in what suddenly becomes a must win for the Dodgers.
POSITIVES: What a great series of AB’s for the Mets in the seventh. Duda laid off some close pitches to work out a leadoff walk. Cuddyer got the job done, moving Duda to second. Tejada worked out a walk after being down in the count 0-2 with an 8-pitch AB. DeGrom laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners-up. Granderson worked out another walk after being down in the count 1-2. And the Captain finishes it off … When was the last time Kershaw walked three batters in the same inning? … Mets left-handers had four of the Mets five hits off the lefty Kershaw … Collins, the oldest manager in the majors at 66, gets his first postseason win in his first postseason game …It was 88 degrees at game time. Don’t you just love LA? … Mariano Rivera had just 13 career four-out saves in the regular season, but had 30 of them in the postseason … First time in post season history that two pitchers had at least 11 K …
NEGATIVES: Kershaw has lost his last 5 postseason starts … Yoenis Cespedes and Tejada struck out three times … Cuddyer was brutal out in left field and was 0-3 with a K. Michael Conforto may have caught both balls Cuddyer mis-played. Conforto will start against Grienke in Game 2.
By: Paul DiSclafani
As “Flounder” said to his Fraternity Brothers while wringing his hands in anticipation of a night out during the movie “Animal House”, “Oh boy, is this great!” – that’s the feeling most Mets fans have as the NLDS begins tonight.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the matchups:
CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud and A.J. Ellis/Yasmani Grandal
Travis d’Arnaud spent two long stints on the DL with a broken finger and a hyper-extended elbow and played only 67 games. But he still hit 12 HR and drove in 41 runs in just 174 AB’s. His OPS of .825 would have put him second for NL catchers, but he didn’t have enough AB’s. Yasmani Grandal finished the season 3-for-51, so AJ Ellis should get plenty of opportunities. But the veteran does most of his damage against lefties (.913 OPS), and the Mets will start right-handers in the first three games of the set. EDGE: Mets
FIRST BASE: Lucas Duda vs. Adrian Gonzalez
Although the final season numbers are close, Duda did most of his damage in bunches. He is just one HR shy of Gonzalez (27-28), but he hit 9 in 8 games in August and five in three games in September. And the worry about his ability to hit lefthanders was trashed, as Duda put up better numbers vs lefties (.285) than righties (.230). Gonzalez has a much better glove than Duda (he has four gold ones), but has hit only four home runs in his last 149 AB’s. EDGE: Dodgers
SECOND BASE: Daniel Murphy vs. Howie Kendrick
Murphy led the Mets with 38 doubles, but hit 13 of his 14 home runs against righties. He is the one Mets batter you want to see up there when you need a hit, though. But he’s the last guy you want the ball hit to. He doesn’t make as many errors as you would believe (13), but a lot of the mental mistakes he makes in the field and on the base paths don’t translate into errors. Kendrick was on the DL when the Dodgers traded for Chase Utley, but Utley hit just .202 when he came over. Kendricks returned in the middle of September and finished with 54 RBI and hit .288 in the final two weeks of the season. EDGE: Even
SHORTSTOP: Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada vs. Corey Seager
Not much of a contest with Seager hitting .337, who won the job over former Mets nemesis Jimmy Rollins. With Flores still battling strep throat (he lost 10 pounds in a week), it will be Tejada. But fear not, Mets fans. Tejada is hitting .357 against Kershaw in 17 AB’s. EDGE: Dodgers
THIRD BASE: David Wright vs. Justin Turner
David Wright looks healthy enough to rule out back issues in this series. He has played well in his 30 games since returning from the DL (.277), but former Met Justin Turner has been good all season. The redhead has hit well against righties (.312) and won’t have to worry about a lefty until Game 4. EDGE: Dodgers
LEFT FIELD: Michael Conforto/Michael Cuddyer vs. Carl Crawford
Rookie Conforto will not play against lefties and Cuddyer came on strong in the last few weeks (.287 after August 10). But this combo is better than Crawford. EDGE: Mets
CENTER FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes vs. Joc Pederson
Pederson hit just .178 in 62 games after the All-Star break and Cespedes has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since joining the Mets. In 57 games with the NL East champs, the Cuban clubbed 14 doubles, four triples and 17 home runs, while compiling a .604 slugging percentage and a .942 OPS. He even has October experience, hitting .350 in 10 career games. EDGE: Mets
RIGHT FIELD: Curtis Granderson vs. Andre Ethier/Yasiel Puig
Puig played in just 79 games for the Dodgers after pulling both hamstrings during the year and was on the DL for five weeks before making it back for the final two games of the regular season. Ethier will start against the righties and we may see Puig PH and get a start in Game 4 vs the lefty Matz. Granderson has a career high 91 walks as the Mets leadoff guy and his 26 home runs. EDGE: Mets
The Mets are not afraid of Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke. There, we said it.
Although the Aces are both previous Cy Young winners and no doubt intimidating presences on the mound, facts are facts. The fact is: They are both going to pitch well and there isn’t a lot you can do about it.
Kershaw (a 3-time CY Young winner) won 16 games and struck out 301 batters. Grienke, who is a candidate to win his second Cy Young this year, won 19 games with a microscopic ERA of 1.66. Intimidating, no?
Like the rest of the league, the Mets did not have much success against both of them during the regular season, but their starting pitching kept them in the game and when they got to the LA bullpen, the Mets won both games.
- The Mets went out to LA and scored a run off Kershaw while Noah Syndergaard matched him pitch for pitch, then the Mets got a run in the ninth off closer Kenley Jensen for a 2-1 win.
- Back at Citi Field, they stopped Grienke’s scoreless innings streak at 45.2 by scoring twice off him, then won the game in walk-off fashion when Juan Uribe missed a home run by inches in the 10th inning against Juan Nicasio.
Good pitching always trumps good hitting and both teams have good, if not great, starting pitching. The Dodgers have veterans with postseason experience if not postseason success, the Mets with young flamethrowers with zero postseason experience. Maybe they cancel each other out.
GAME 1: Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54) vs Clayton Kershaw (16-7, 2.13)
With a staff that boasts Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, deGrom has emerged as the Ace of the staff. He made 30 starts and struck out 205 in his 191 innings, walking only 38 batters all year. Kershaw has won three of the last four Cy Young awards and was the NL MVP last year. His 301 strikeouts are the most in the majors since 2002. The lefty will be trying to shake his postseason persona of failure, though. In 11 postseason starts, he is just 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA. So the Mets have THAT going for them.
GAME 2: Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24) vs Zach Grienke (19-3, 1.66)
Grienke led the league in ERA and is a candidate for his second Cy Young award and had a scoreless innings streak of 45.2 innings. Like Kershaw, Grienke has not seen his regular season success transfer to the post season. He has started seven games in the postseason with mixed results, 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA. The rookie Syndergaard is full of spit and vinegar, boasting that the Mets will “give it to Dodgers wherever we are.” His woes on the road are well documented and he gave up 19 home runs in his 24 starts. His nasty curve will drive the Dodgers nuts.
GAME 3: Brett Anderson (10-9, 3.69) vs Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71)
When the series moves to New York, Matt Harvey will take the mound for the Mets. This time, there will be no talk of innings limits. Harvey made 29 starts for the Mets in his post-surgery season and was inconsistent at times, allowing 18 home runs. But he does want the ball in big situations and what better stage will there be than the first home postseason game for the Mets in nine years? And after facing Kershaw and Grienke on back-to-backs nights, you think the Mets are looking forward to Brett Anderson? Anderson was rocked for five runs in four innings against the Mets in his only start.
GAME 4: The Mets will be starting another rookie, Steven Matz (4-0, 2.27) who already has a win against the Dodgers under his belt (6 inns, 1 run, 2 hits). In six starts over 35 innings he has given up only 9 runs, giving up three runs just once. Matz hasn’t pitched since September 24th. And he will most likely be facing Kershaw on short rest.
Game 5: Expect Grienke to take the ball again, this time he will face deGrom.
The Dodgers have blown 21 saves this season, but closer Kenley Jansen is 36 of 38 in saves with 80 strikeouts in 54 innings. The Mets Jeurys Familia tied a Mets franchise record with 43 saves (in 48 chances) and has allowed just 16 runs in 78 appearances.
Both teams have had fairly solid 8th inning guys all season. JP Howell won six games in relief for the Dodgers (1.43 ERA) and had 10 “holds”. The Mets acquired Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to bolster their pen. Reed has allowed just two runs in his 17 appearances and between them they have 14 holds.
It’s the mess getting to these guys that is the problem for both teams. But that may not be a factor with the strength of the starting pitching. EDGE: Even
Obviously this series will be dominated by the pitching. When you face a Kershaw and a Grienke, you know that scoring runs is going to be difficult, so what do you hope for? You hope your pitchers can keep you in the game. Is there any staff more suited to match Kershaw and Grienke pitch-for-pitch than the Mets?
So your plan is to get into the other team’s bullpen, right? It is well documented that both teams have trouble in the 6th and 7th innings, but seem to have it figured out in 8 and 9. But this is the playoffs. If you are going to the bullpen in the sixth inning, you are in trouble. Grienke and Kershaw were described by Terry Collins as “Those two animals”, and he’s right. They are built to go 8 or 9 innings without breaking a sweat. The Mets kiddies haven’t done that all year. With innings limits and pitch counts, they Mets bullpen got a lot more work than they should have.
Watching the Mets all year, you could see how the starters struggled once their pitch count hit the magical 100 mark. You think that is going to bother Grienke or Kershaw?
Not sure what is more important in this series regarding the pitching, the inexperience and unknown ability of the Mets starters (never played in the post season) or the postseason perception around Kershaw and Grienke that they are different guys when it really counts?
And what Mets lineup will show up? The “no-lead-is-safe” bangers of August and early September, or the pop-gun “no-more-than-one-hit-per-inning” group the rest of the season?
Game 1 is the key to the entire series. If the Mets win, they are assured of at least a split in LA. If the Dodgers win, they have Grienke on the mound for Game 2 and a chance to take a stranglehold on the short series.
Once they get to NY, the Dodgers have an advantage in using Kershaw on short rest for a Game 4 because they back him up with Grienke on regular rest for a Game 5. The Mets will be throwing a 22 year-old kid with just six major league starts into elimination Game 4 with one of the teams up in the series, 2-1.
The Mets don’t want to get to a Game 5 and I don’t think they do. Win a game in LA and Harvey will win Game 3 for you. At the worst, it’s a 2-1 lead going into Game 4 against Kershaw on three days rest with a kid pitcher who has shown no fear and won a Championship game start in every level he has played.
Mets dispatch the Dodgers in four games.
By: Paul DiSclafani
As we head into the 2015 NLDS, let’s take a look back at the playoff history of these two teams.
They first met in a classic seven game National League Championship Series in 1988 that was famous for a home run hit against the Mets just when it seemed that they had taken control of the series. That home run not only changed the course of the series, but it changed the course of the fortunes of the Mets franchise. 90 wins in 1984, 98 wins in 1985 and a World Championship season in 1986 where they won 108 games in the regular season. The next year, the Mets won 92 games but just missed the playoffs before hitting the 100 win mark again in 1988.
They never seemed to recover from that home run and went 11 years without another playoff appearance.
Although the Mets don’t have a long postseason history (this is only their 8th appearance in 53 years), they have been fairly successful, winning 9 of 14 series and two World Series, in 1969 and 1986.
The Dodgers began playing professional baseball way back in 1883 and have a long and storied history in baseball’s postseason. As the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 40’s and 50’s, they lost the World Series five straight times to the Yankees over a 13 year period before winning their first Championship in 1955. The next year, of course, they lost to the Yankees again and then packed their bags and headed to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.
Since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers have been to the World Series nine more times (winning five), but none since 1988 – the year they beat the Mets to get there. Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since 1988, losing in either the NLDS or NLCS in their past eight postseason appearances.
The Mets and Dodgers have met twice in the post season.
The 1988 Mets were a year removed from their second World Championship and after a disappointing 1987 season and were confident in the NLCS against the Dodgers because they had beaten them 10 out of 11 games in the regular season.
After splitting the first two games in LA, Game 3 was rained out, allowing the Dodgers to bring back Orel Hersheiser on three days rest. On a sloppy, muddy field, the Mets fell behind 4-3 in the 8th inning before erupting for five runs and an 8-4 win. During that inning, the Mets challenged that Dodger pitcher Jay Howell had something in his glove. He was ejected and suspended for the next game.
In Game 4, the Mets were poised to take a commanding 3 games to 1 lead with a possible Game 5 clincher at Shea the next day, when they took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning. Dwight Gooden had allowed only one hit going into the ninth and walked the leadoff batter, then allowed a game-tying, two-run home run to Mike Scioscia, who hit only two home runs all year. In the 12th inning, Kirk Gibson hit a solo home run off Roger McDowell as the Dodgers tied the series. Gooden has often said that his greatest regret in his baseball career was missing the Mets 1986 championship Ticker-Tape Parade through The Canyon Of Hero’s. The Scioscia home run was Number 2.
Gibson, the 1988 NL MVP, would injure his knee in Game 5, but not before he hit a 3-run home run helping the Dodgers to take a 3-2 lead back to LA. Gibson’s injury would force him out of the remainder of this series and the World Series, except for one iconic at bat against Dennis Eckersley in Game 1, hitting the game winning home run on one leg.
Although the Mets won Game 6 behind David Cone’s 5-hit effort, the Dodgers rocked Ron Darling in the second inning of Game 7 after the Mets made two errors for five runs and they won Game 7, 6-0. The Dodgers then went on to beat the A’s in the World Series.
Before the famous (or infamous) called third strike on Carlos Beltran in the 2006 NLCS, the Mets and Dodgers met in the NLDS that started with a bang in NY.
After learning that starter Orlindo Hernandez (el Duque) would miss the series with a torn muscle, rookie starter John Maine got the start and was in immediate trouble in the first inning with runners on first and second and no outs. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin hit a long drive to the wall that went over the head of Mets outfielder Sean Green, but the lead runner on second, Jeff Kent, though Green might catch the ball, so he headed back to second to tag up, when the ball went over his head, Kent tried to score, but was tagged out at the plate. But the trailing runner JD Drew was right behind him, so LoDuca tagged him out too. The Mets went on for a 6-5 win.
Mets won Game 2 also, 4-1, and went to Los Angeles for Game 3, where they scored three times in the first inning and again in the second, winning big 9-5 and sweeping into the NLCS. The Cardinals beat the Mets in the NLCS, 4-3
UP NEXT: Pitching, Pitching and more pitching; Key Players and a Prediction
By: Paul DiSclafani
Mets rookie pitcher Steven Matz threw 80 pitches in five innings today during an Instructional League game down in Port St. Lucie, Florida and reported no pain. “I feel like I’m where I need to be now”, said Matz, who is trying to prove to the Mets management that he belongs on the post season roster.
Matz, who is penciled in to start Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, hit 96 mph in the first inning and was consistently in the 93-95 range the rest of his outing. He allowed a triple to the first batter he faced and later allowed an RBI double in the second inning, but he retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced. Catcher Anthony Recker said, “When he got his rhythm back and his timing back, he really had good movement and he was throwing all four pitches well.
“He was nasty,” said third baseman Eric Campbell. “His fastball has a lot of life to it. He was throwing his off speed for strikes. He’s ready to go.”
Matz was scratched from his final regular season start with back discomfort and rested for over a week, taking medication before he resumed throwing on Monday. Matz missed time in July and August with a partially torn lat and the Mets are concerned that if they put him on the playoff roster and he needs to be replaced and put on the DL, he will be ineligible for the next round should the Mets advance.
For insurance, the Mets brought lefthander Sean Gilmartin out to LA with them while Matz was in Florida. He will be on the playoff roster instead of Carlos Torres in the event that Matz is not.
The Mets do not have to hand in their final playoff roster for the NLDS against the Dodgers until 30 minutes before Game 1.