Thursday night, the Mets beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium to advance to the NLCS (NYM 3, LAD 2). The Amazin’s will play the Cubs in the NLCS starting Saturday night in New York.
For now, here are eight things to know about Game 5 of the NLDS.
1. DeGrom pitched like an ace.
It is pretty amazing Jacob deGrom allowed only two runs in six innings. The first four batters he faced hit rockets — the very first batter, Howie Kendrick, hit a line drive at Lucas Duda at first base for an out — and four of the first five batters he faced reached base, leading to the two runs. He was in danger all night.
The Dodgers had runners in scoring position in every single inning against deGrom but the sixth, yet they were unable to break through after that first inning. They went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position against deGrom, and the two hits came in the first inning. They were hitless in their last 10 at-bats in those situations against him.
DeGrom threw 105 pitches in those six innings, and by my unofficial count, he threw only 40 from the windup compared to 65 from the stretch. All those baserunners led to a lot of high-stress pitches. I know everyone focuses on dominance when you think about an ace, but this was an ace-like performance. Aces figure out ways to keep runs off the board when they don’t have their best stuff. Gutty outing by deGrom.
2. Of course the Dodgers regret stranding all those runners.
You could kind of see it coming. The Dodgers stranded two runners in the first, two more in the second, and one each in the third, fourth and fifth innings. They were going to regret leaving all those ducks on the pond at some point. You always regret leaving runners on base, but I mean really regret it. The Dodgers had opportunities to jump on deGrom early, score at least one or two more runs, and get into the Mets bullpen. It never happened. deGrom settled in — he retired nine of the last 11 batters he faced — and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. Murphy stole a run.
Impending free agent Daniel Murphy was the Mets’ best player all series. Not only did he hit the go-ahead home run in Game 5, he also hit two home runs against Clayton Kershaw earlier in the series. Murphy was involved in all three Mets runs in Game 5. He drove in the first with a double, drove in the third with a homer, and “stole” the second run.
Murphy was on first base when Zack Greinke walked Duda in the fourth. He noticed third base was unoccupied because of the infield shift, and simply ran to third. Here’s the video:
The infield was shifted, so third baseman Justin Turner was somewhere in right field. I think it’s unreasonable to ask the pitcher or catcher to cover third there. They have too much going on as it is. I guess that leaves it up to the shortstop, Corey Seager? Either way, Murphy stole third on the play and later scored the tying run on Travis d’Arnaud‘s sacrifice fly.
3a. On that note, I saw a few people say Andre Ethier should have let d’Arnaud’s sac fly fall in foul territory, giving Greinke a chance for the strikeout to strand the runner. I can understand that line of thinking, but I’m inclined to say Ethier was smart to just take the out. (Also, it’s pretty tough to judge whether that ball would be fair or foul when you’re running trying to catch it.) The magnitude of the game is too great to potentially give the other team free outs, especially with runners already on base.
4. The bottom of the Dodgers lineup was a big problem.
In terms of OPS+, the Dodgers had the third-best offense in baseball this season. You wouldn’t have been able to tell that from the lineup they ran out there in Game 5. The top of the lineup was fine, but the 6-8 hitters? Yikes. Look at this:
Yasmani Grandal finished the regular season in a 4-for-84 slump (4 for 84!) as he battled shoulder issues, and his problems carried over into the postseason. He went 1 for 10 with six strikeouts in the NLDS.
Enrique Hernandez is a fine utility player, but he had a 64 OPS+ against righties this season and started in left field in an elimination game against a righty because Carl Crawford has been so bad of late. Joc Pederson? He had a 71 OPS+ in the second half.
Grandal’s injury and Pederson’s second-half collapse — as well as Yasiel Puig‘s continued hamstring problems — really took a bite out of the Dodgers lineup down the stretch and in the NLDS. Those 6-8 hitters in an elimination game … yikes. Just … yikes.
5. Turner crushed his former team.
Two years ago, the Mets non-tendered Turner in what was mostly a financial move. He was set to made some decent money through arbitration and the team felt it was too much for a utility infielder. They tried to blame it on baseball reasons — there was talk about Turner’s work ethic being issue — but at the end of the day, it was about the money.
The Dodgers signed Turner, who reworked his swing — most notably, he incorporated a big leg kick — and he’s hit .314/.384/.492 (145 OPS+) over the last two seasons. Turner went 3 for 4 with two doubles in Game 5 and 10 for 19 (.526) with six doubles in the five-game series. Those six doubles are a new Dodgers record for a single franchise series. Know who else had six doubles in the NLDS? The Mets. All of ‘em, combined.
Also, after the first inning Turner was the only Dodger to record a hit. He doubled in the third and doubled in the fifth. That was it. Fourteen of the final 15 Dodgers to bat made an out.
6. Duda and Wright did little and the Mets still won.
Remember David Wright‘s big two-run single in Game 1 of the NLDS? That was pretty much all he contributed in the series. Wright went 1 for 16 (.063) in the five games. Furthermore, Lucas Duda went 2 for 18 (.111) in the series. And yet, the Mets won the series because they beefed up their lineup at midseason. They will need Wright and Duda to turn things around to advance beyond the NLCS though.
7. Greinke may have just made his last start as a Dodger.
Greinke pitched well in Game 5, allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out nine. Chances are Greinke will either win the Cy Young or finish second in the voting this year, and after the World Series, he figures to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract to become a free agent. There are four years and $71 million left on his deal, and Greinke should clear that easily on the open market this winter. I expect him to get $100 million or more. Will the Dodgers meet his asking price? They can certainly afford it. There’s no doubt about that.
8. Mattingly may have managed his last game as a Dodger.
Manager Don Mattingly has been on rocky ground for years, it seems. He survived the regime change this offseason, but if the new front office wants to hire their own manager, there’s no better time to do it than right now. The team with the largest payroll in history was just knocked out of the postseason in the first round for the second straight year. Someone is going to take the fall, and the manager is usually that someone.