You could call yesterday’s win, among other things, a meeting of a great multitude of journeys.
Terry Collins, I suppose, should come first. He’s been from Pittsburgh to Houston, Anaheim to Tampa Bay, on to Japan for two seasons, and then on to Queens. We’ve griped occasionally – well, more than occasionally – when the goings have been tough, but thanks to Terry and his inexplicably aggressive and overwhelmingly successful postseason managing, we’re at the point that we are tonight.
Lucas Duda drove in five runs tonight – his journey, in the short run, has been from slump to slug faster than anyone can possibly keep track. He hit his stride in game three, kept – I don’t know, striding? – in game four, and finished the day with five RBIs. Terry has suggested that if Duda gets going, “we can be golden.” That’s very true; or, in Terry’s parlance, that’s gravy. Duda was bad all postseason, but he came through in game seven. That’s what we’ll see on Mets Classics in twenty years. That’s what matters.
And then there’s Murph, because at this point, pretty much anything you mention can be realistically described in terms of Daniel Murphy. If you said “eggs,” for example, I’d tell you that eggs were best described as a potential breakfast option for Daniel Murphy. If you said “America,” I’d say that Daniel Murphy lives there, ‘nuff said. With his 8th inning home run, Murph broke the record for consecutive postseason games with a home run. Whose record did he break, with the home run that lodged the final nail in the Cubs coffin and helped win an NLCS and send the Mets to the World Series? Carlos Beltran. The symbolism there is borderline alarming.
Jeurys Familia closed it out – that’s a sentence that we’ve gotten used to over this season, and it’s proven true in our two series victories so far. Familia started out in Venezuela. The Mets signed him in 2007. He came up in 2012, was okay in 2013, was dominant in 2014, and started out 2015 as the setup man, which didn’t make sense, since it was clear to just about everyone that Jenrry Mejia, PEDs or not, was nowhere near as monstrous as Familia was. Sure enough, Mejia went down, and Familia was the closer. No one’s looked back since. You can look at the numbers – 43, 1.85, 2.7 WAR, 9.9 K/9…etc. You don’t need the numbers to see that whatever Familia’s throwing – his pitches, at this point, defy conventional naming standards – is nasty. He’s now got a nice stretch of off days before the series starts. Good luck with that, opponents.
And so, these guys, and others, came together, played together when they were healthy, picked each other up when they were injured, and got the big hits when others didn’t. It all led to tonight, when a win could put us in rarely-charted territory, and started right from the gun. Granderson singled. Wright – boy oh boy, does he deserve this win – struck out. Murph – let’s be honest, we all expected a home run here – popped out. With Cespedes up, Granderson stole second. Cespedes, on the pitch that he’s been swinging at and missing all season, left the bat on his shoulder and walked.
If that didn’t augur success, you haven’t been watching this team.
Then it was Duda, who we all hoped was off the schneid. He took some pitches, he missed a nasty breaking ball, he fouled some pitches off…I, to be honest, wasn’t optimistic.
These are the 2015 Mets; who needs optimism? We’ve got the team work to make the dream work, in more ways than one. Duda homered, and d’Arnaud, before we could get done fist-pumping, followed suit.
For a game that, after the second inning, was never closer than five runs, it sure seemed like a nail biter. The Cubs had their chances: the captain helped us dodge a bullet in the fourth when he nabbed a Starlin Castro liner with a leap worthy of a 23 year old, and Bartolo – yet another guy whose presence on this team is nothing short of surreal – helped us avoid another when he struck out Kris Bryant with two on in the fifth. Of Kris Bryant’s 23.5 years of life, Bartolo Colón has been a professional baseball player for about 22.5. It couldn’t get more cinematic Tarantino had written it. The wily vet – the 300 pound vet, to make things that much more interesting – strikes out the young slugger, and commands the opposing lineup? Like I said: surreal.
The Mets stranded men at third in the sixth and the seventh, and if I know my people, there wasn’t a Mets fan in the world who wasn’t convinced, at that point, that we would lose 7-6, victims of our failure to bring home that all-important runner-at-third-with-less-than-two-outs (did you ever notice how the broadcasters always say it the same way, as if it was one really long word?). We Mets fans can be stubborn: maybe this win will help pound the final nail in the coffin of ’07/’08, but remnants of those years will surely stick with us forever. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a Mets fan who wasn’t concerned, deep down, that a 6-1 lead in the eighth wasn’t enough.
But this team is different, as they’ve insisted to us all season. This isn’t the ’07 debacle, or the ’08 wilt. This is one helluva group of players – one that, I daresay, reminds me more and more of one of those underdog championship teams from inspirational sports movies. This team is not the type – well, outside of that one game against the Padres with the two outs, the delay, the home run, the second delay, and the eventual loss – to give up leads late. We’ve got Familia. Literally and figuratively.
Clippard entered for the eighth and immediately resembled D.J. Carrasco. That was Clip’s m.o. in the second half of the second half of the season, but it had seemed that perhaps he’d regained his third-quarter form. Maybe not. But he settled down, got his outs after giving up two, and handed it over.
Oh, and Murph homered somewhere in there too, but you already know that: as Ernie Johnson said yesterday, Daniel Murphy hit a home run because a game was played. It’s that simple, at this point.
Familia entered. Coghlan grounded to Murph. La Stella grounded to Murph (boy, the Cubs just cannot shake the whole “Murphy” thing, can they?). Montero walked. Being a Mets fan, this was enough to raise my heart rate about 30 percent.
I needn’t have worried: as I’ve said, this team is about as different from the 2007 mess as can be. Familia worked on Fowler, wore him down, and ultimately brushed the upper limits of the strike zone with a fastball that was too close to take, although apparently Fowler hadn’t been made aware of this. Strike three. Put in the books.
These Mets haven’t been together for long, and I’m not deluding myself into thinking that they’ll all be together next year – although Daniel Murphy, and I mean this with all of my heart, had better – but they’ve already accomplished what many thought impossible: what the Dodgers, with their $300 million payroll, and the Cardinals, with their vaunted – well, just about everything – could not. Mets fans, let it sink in: we’re going to the god damn World Series.
You could, I said, call the win a confluence of journeys. That’s nice in itself, but it’s not all. Thanks to Murph and Granderson and Wright and Familia and Matz and Colón and every single player on this wonderful team, we’ve got one more journey to make. And from what I’ve seen, we’ve got the stuff to come out victorious one last time.