It won’t go down in history as one of their better-played games, but the New York Mets outscored the Chicago Cubs 8-3 last night in Wrigley Field to win their fourth consecutive game of the National League Championship Series, securing a highly improbable berth in the 2015 World Series. More on that improbability later.
The Mets committed several cardinal sins last night: base running mistakes, several squandered opportunities to add tack on runs and relief pitchers falling behind early in the count. Plus, they lost arguably their best (but not their hottest) offensive player for no apparent reason. They did all of this on the road, a combination of circumstances that under normal conditions, usually equates to a loss. Fortunately for the Mets, last night was anything but a normal condition.
Granted, it was through the glare of the my TV screen, but I came away underwhelmed by the so-called Bleacher Creatures that we’ve heard so much about. The atmosphere in that old ballpark struck me as more of a rave than a playoff game . T-shirt? Check. Beer Mug? Check. White Towel? Check. Stand up and cheer? Check. Clap my hands? Check. I don’t know if I believe in curses, but the Cubs fans seemingly do, as they where taken out of the series the moment Miguel Montero dropped that third strike the game before. There was a collective “here we go again” resignation from them that would never happen in New York.
There is an deadly earnest seriousness to a playoff game in this city, Boston, or even Philadelphia that seemed lacking in Chicago. The crowd seemed more bystanderish than participants. I think that whoever the Mets face in the World Series next week will really need to brace themselves for what’s coming from the fans.
Back to the game itself, which had a surreal sense to it. I had to remind myself during the middle innings that the Mets where actually winning. Even after David Wright’s incredible snare of Starlin Castro’s liner in the 5th, I couldn’t shake a feeling of dread. I did relax to a point after Daniel (who’s Babe Ruth?) Murphy’s homer, but the suddenly unreliable Tyler Clippard gave those two runs back. Even the indomitable Jeurys Familia struggled just a bit in the ninth before getting a called strike three on Dexter Fowler to end the game and the series. The game lacked the drama of say Game 6 of the 86 NLCS, or the Todd Pratt walkoff, or Bobby Jones’ gem. But considering how nervous I felt during most of the game, perhaps the lack of drama was a good thing!
Like many long time Mets fans, I tend to compare this season to others, looking for similarities. This team is far from being a complete squad, which is what the 1986 and 2000 teams were. It much more closely resembles the 1973 team, that rode great pitching and timely hitting, rising up from the depths of the division, overcoming heavy favorites in that race and the NLCS, getting to within a manager’s mishandling of the pitching staff (RIP Yogi) to beating the Oakland A’s. This team and the run they put on from August 1 forward reminds me of that team. A lot of recent bad memories, including the Beltran strikeout and the 07 collapse, have been somewhat expunged this year. Here’s hoping that the Mets can now erase an older hurt in this long-time fan’s memory.
I waited 13 years from 1973 to 1986. It took them another 14 years to get back to the World Series again. Now, the wait was 15 years. At this rate, I’ll be 71 the next time the Mets get the World Series and 88, which is how old I am expected to live to, for the subsequent one. What a way to go! The point is, that I am definitely going to savor these next few days and can’t wait for the World Series to begin. My sense is that Murphy, Clippard and Bartolo Colon are goners for sure after the World Series. Yoenis Cespedes is 50/50 at best to come back. But I think Murphy put it best when asked about his contract status: that’s a question for the offseason, we’re still playing.
Play on! Lets Go Mets!