2015 Playoff Preview
I know the Mets are only halfway to the NLCS. Talking about the World Series is way too premature. However, that doesn’t mean it’s premature to consider the opponents.
These two teams are tough as nails. The Rangers had the Blue Jays dead. The Blue Jays already threw David Price and Marcus Stroman. They were heading to Arlington. The Blue Jays win both games and headed home. In the do or die Game 5, this happened:
For most teams, this would’ve been a death knell. Instead, this happened:
They’re down 2-0 to the Royals right now, but they’ve shown they’re not done.
Speaking of the Royals, the only thing that’s been able to bring them down the past few years has been Madison Bumgarner. It took everything the best postseason pitcher we have in baseball right now to beat them.
Jon Lester and a 7-3 lead going into the eighth inning in the AL Wild Card Game couldn’t stop them. The best player in baseball, Mike Trout, couldn’t stop them in the ALDS. They steamrolled the Orioles. They came within 90 feet of sending Game 7 of the World Series into extra innings:
How do the Royals respond to this heartbreaking loss? They win the AL Central and earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. As a result, they got to match up against the 2015 version of themselves. In Game 4, they were all but left for dead:
Instead, the Royals had a five run eighth inning to take Game 4. They then went home, trailed 2-0 early in Game 5 and won 7-2 to advance to the ALCS. They now lead the ALCS 2-0. They’re on a mission. They’re going to be hard to stop.
I could say I want the Blue Jays because the Mets already played well against them before they were at full strength. However, the NLCS has shown regular season results doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs. Besides, the Mets have the pitching to beat anyone.
Honestly, I just want to get there. I’m confident the Mets can beat anyone. Hopefully, I’m right.
Well I guess even after reviewing on replay after the Dodgers’ challenge, MLB finally reviewed the ball and its own rulebook:
LAD INF Utley has been suspended for Games 3 & 4 of NLDS as a result of his illegal slide in the 7th inning on Sat. pic.twitter.com/ktAjmXWFaR
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) October 12, 2015
So finally, MLB admits it was interference. If the play was called properly on the field, it would’ve been an inning ending double play. If called properly, the Mets lead the game 2-1 going into the top of the eighth.
Instead, Chase Utley was ruled safe, and the Dodgers won 5-2. Either way Ruben Tejada still has a broken leg. Utley is appealing. He may or may not play in Games 3 and 4.
The Mets still lost Game 2, partially due to a blown call and inane replay rules. A 2-0 series lead is now 1-1. Good job MLB.
We’ve all said everything that needs to be said coming into this late starting game. The only thing left to do is to get pumped up. Here’s some old Mets playoff highlights to get you going:
LETS GO METS!
I was lucky. When I first became interested in baseball the Mets were really good. They finished second or higher in the NL East from 1984 – 1990.
During that time span, I was only concerned about the Mets. Hating the Yankees didn’t even make sense yet. They were not good enough to be hated. Besides, they played in the American League, and they never played the Mets in the regular season. I really didn’t hate any teams until 1988.
I remember the exact moment. It was the day of my aunt’s bridal shower, which was being hosted at my parent’s house. The men were thrown into the basement to watch the NLCS. With the game tied at three, Jay Howell got caught cheating. He was using pine tar. When the Mets went off to score five runs after his ejection, it was the first time I experienced schadenfreude.
The moment got me really interested and focused on the 1988 NLCS; more than an eight year old should. I lived and died with that team for the next four games. I was devastated when the Mets lost. I then hate watched the World Series for the first time in my life. Kirk Gibson‘s homerun was one of the greatest moments in MLB history. However, I was just angry the Dodgers won again.
My hatred of the Dodgers would only grow from there. Darryl Strawberry was my favorite player. As a kid, I had no real grasp of free agency. The Dodgers would teach me all about it. I was in the car with my Dad listening to WFAN after we visited Nana. I then heard that Strawberry signed with the Dodgers.
I didn’t understand. How could my favorite player go to the Dodgers? He was a Met. I was crushed. It got worse. I also loved Gary Carter. Later that offseason, he would also sign with the Dodgers. I remember the first Mets-Dodgers game in 1991. I was sitting in my parent’s basement playing Strat-O-Matic with my Dad when the game started.
As I grew older, I came to hate other teams more. However, I always hated the Dodgers. It’s what made the Mike Piazza years even sweeter. It’s what made the Paul Lo Duca double tag out at home plate even better. It’s why I’m even more excited for this series.
Lets Go Mets!
The one thing that no one associates with the Yankees is the great player that never won a ring. Famously, the Cubs have Ernie Banks. The Mets have Mike Piazza. Though not on the same tier as those two, the Yankees have Don Mattingly.
In 1981, the Yankees lost the World Series to the Dodgers. The next year, Mattingky would get called up and become the first baseman. It started the longest stretch of Yankee baseball not being in the playoffs. In 1994, the Yankees were assured a playoff spot, but then the strike happened.
Finally, in 1995, in Mattingly’s last season, the Yankees would make the playoffs as the Wild Card. The Yankees would squander a 2-0 lead. They would squander a lead in the fifth and deciding game. In the 10th inning, Mattingly would hit a go-ahead RBI double. The Mariners would come back again and beat the Yankees.
The next year, Mattingly retired, and the Yankees replaced him with Tino Martinez. The Yankees would go on to win four World Series in five years. Mattingly would re-join the Yankees in 2004, which is the same year as the Red Sox overcoming an 0-3 deficit to win the 2004 ALCS, and subsequently, the World Series.
The Yankees would hire Joe Girardi over him as Joe Torre’s successor. The Yankees would win the World Series again in 2009. Mattingly was a coach on the Dodgers from 2008 – 2010, when the Dodgers twice lost in the NLCS to the Phillies 4-1.
Mattingly then assumed the helm as the Dodgers manager. So far, despite having the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw, he hasn’t been able to make it to the World Series. It makes you question if he’s due or if he’s cursed.
I hope it’s the latter.
After a promising year last year, Juan Lagares had a down year. The Mets knew it was a problem, so they pulled the trigger on the Yoenis Cespedes trade. With the Dodgers lefties coming into this series, Terry Collins has elected to go with Michael Cuddyer over Lagares.
However, that is only in the starting lineup. This is going to be a close series. When and if, the Mets get a lead, they’re going to have to protect it. This means defensive replacements and double switches. This will get more innings to the Mets incredible bullpen (which is their biggest advantage), and they will get better fielders out there.
Getting Lagares into the game moves Cespedes to LF, where he is much better suited. It also puts Lagares in center, so he can do Lagares things:
In my heart of hearts, I know the Mets are going to need his defense. This year’s golden moment is going to be better than any play he made last year.
Fifteen years ago today, I went to my first Mets playoff game. Somehow, even with Mike Piazza injured, the Mets lead the NLDS 2-1. They found themselves in a extra innings looking for just one big hit:
I don’t think there was anyone on the planet who thought Todd Pratt was going to hit a walkoff, series-clinching homerun.
The next year, the NLDS heroes would be Benny Agbayani . . .
. . . and Bobby Jones
Who’s it going to be this year? Could it be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’s already had a huge pinch hit homerun this year:
How about Wilmer Flores:
Whoever it is, that player is about to forever become a part of Mets lore.
LETS GO METS!
This past week I’ve mainly focused on the big pitchers because that’s where I think the series will be won and lost.
While you can argue the best two pitchers in this series are Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, the Mets have historically performed slightly better than the rest of baseball against these two. I’m not sure that matters all that much because Kershaw and Greinke have pitched very well against the Mets.
On the flip side, Noah Syndergaard is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. He’s been close to unhittable for a month now. Additionally, Jacob deGrom has had a terrific year, and he pitched well while amped up. Finally, the Mets have a big advantage in the Game 3 matchup between Matt Harvey and Brett Anderson. Overall, as you can see the Dodgers and Mets pitching is a wash:
Love the graphic in this story. Look at how even Mets and Dodgers pitching staff were in 2015 http://t.co/OQUfNM7Si0
— Mark Simon (@MarkASimonSays) October 8, 2015
The biggest advantage for the Mets is their bullpen. So far this year, the Mets bullpen has been better. Additionally, it is comprised of relievers who can go multiple innings, if necessary, to put the game away. Therefore, the Mets don’t need to out duel Greinke and Kershaw. Rather, they just need to do their thing out there and let it become a bullpen game.
No, I’m not counting on Kershaw performing as poorly as he had in past postseasons. I’m not expecting the Mets to completely neutralize Adrian Gonzalez. However, I am not discounting the Mets 4-3 record against the Dodgers.
I remember that the Mets won those games before David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud were healthy. I remember these games were before the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson. I remember the Mets bullpen is even better with the additions of Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard. I remember the Mets have never lost a five game series or an NLDS game at home.
During the regular season, the Mets showed they could pitch with the Dodgers. They showed they had enough offense to beat the Dodgers. Then, they got better pitching and significantly better hitting.
I see the Mets earning a split in LA. I see Harvey winning Game 3. I see the Mets outlasting Kershaw who will be pitching on three days rest. I see the Mets bats taking advantage of the Dodgers bullpen.
Mets in four.
Given that today is Trivia Friday, here’s another question for you. Who was the last Mets player to knock in a run in the playoffs? If the title didn’t give it away, the answer is David Wright.
Seriously, how many Mets fans remember that Wright knocked in Carlos Beltran to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS? I doubt many because most people focus on his .160/.276/.320 line in the NLCS. They choose not to focus on the RBI or his .333/.385/.500 line in the 2006 NLDS. Instead the narrative became Wright isn’t clutch.
In 2000, I remember similar rumblings being uttered about the then face of the Mets franchise, Mike Piazza. Up until 2000, Piazza was not seen as a playoff performer. That perception did not change with his homerun against John Smoltz in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. Rather, it changed when he hit a double with third base coach John Stearns proclaiming over and over again, “The monster is out of the cage!”
Piazza would hit extremely well in the 2000 playoffs. He hit .214/.389/.286 in the NLDS. He hit .412/.545/.941 (video game numbers) in the NLCS. He hit .273/.273/.636 in the World Series. Overall, he hit six doubles, four homeruns, and eight RBIs. Not too bad for a career .242/.301/.458 postseason hitter.
I wasn’t surprised by Piazza in 2000. He hit .324/.398/.570 with 32 homers and 111 RBIs. He is a career .3o8/.377/.545 hitter. I expected Piazza to hit in 2000. It was only a matter of time before he busted out in the playoffs. I’m expecting Wright to perform just as well.
Sure, his 2006 playoff numbers were not good. However, he is a career .298/.377/.492 hitter. Since returning from his back injury, Wright has hit .277/.381/.437 with seven doubles, four homeruns, and 13 RBIs. Like Piazza, it’s his team. Like Piazza, it’s his moment. Like Piazza, I’m expecting him to perform.
Wright is capable of doing it. He’s the face of the franchise. He’s the guy who stayed. He’s the Captain of the team. He’s chasing a World Series ring. It’s his time. It’s his moment.
If he performs like we know he can, it’ll be his World Series ring.
I have questioned Terry Collins’ abilities as a tactician. I’ve seen him at his best in the biggest games of this season. Overall, his biggest strength is he’s a good man that is good with the media.
Now, I don’t mean Jerry Manuel good with the media. I mean actually good with the media. He’s honest. He disarms with his bluntness and humor. He takes the heat, so his players won’t. He seemingly always has his players’ backs.
He’s also good in the clubhouse. With the Mets languishing in May, June, and July, he kept the team from falling apart. I still don’t know how he did it. The funny thing is before his stint with the Mets, he was divisive in the clubhouse. The Angels players forced him to resign. It’s clear Collins learned from his past experience while still being an old school baseball man.
It’s a good thing because he was needed this week. When Matt Harvey missed a workout, Collins told everyone he’s handling it, and he considered the matter over. He acknowledged the mistake, but he told everyone not to blow it out of proportion. When it came up on subsequent days, Collins made jokes about the situation:
Collins laughing off Harvey stuff a day later: "We're going to make sure Matt gets on the plane today. We'll get him on board." #Mets
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) October 7, 2015
If handled improperly, this could’ve been a bigger issue. He turned it from a serious matter to a joke. He was a tremendous leader this week. No, he’s been a tremendous leader all season. It’s even more impressive when you consider he’s a lame duck manager.
Now we need him to go out there tonight and manage a baseball game. At times, he’s shown he can be an excellent tactician. The Mets are going to need that Collins in what appears to be a close series. In any event, the Mets are here in large part because of Collins.
He’s waited his whole career for this moment. I hope he enjoys it. He’s earned that right.