Murphy’s big night carries Mets past Dodgers, into NLCS vs. Cubs
Daniel Murphy just hoped no one was watching.
Murphy shocked the sleeping Dodgers by stealing an uncovered third base and went on to score the tying run. Two innings later, Murphy hit a go-ahead homer off Zack Greinke that led the New York Mets over Los Angeles 3-2 Thursday night and into an NL Championship Series matchup with the Chicago Cubs.
After getting past ace pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Greinke, the Mets will try to reach the World Series for the first time since 2000.
"Something doesn’t go right and we bounce back," said the Mets’ Terry Collins, managing in the postseason for the first time at age 66. "We’ve done it all year long. Tremendous heart."
New York and pitcher Jacob deGrom trailed 2-1 in the fourth inning of the decisive Game 5 of their NL Division Series when Murphy singled and the Dodgers shifted three infielders to the right side and left no one near third with left-handed hitting Lucas Duda at the plate. When Duda walked on a 3-1 pitch with one out, Murphy jogged to second and suddenly sprinted to third.
Rookie shortstop Corey Seager, the closest infielder, was almost all the way toward second.
"You’ve got to give a peek and hope that nobody calls timeout, because then I go sprinting to third base and somebody calls timeout, I look like a buffoon," Murphy said.
No worries. He made it without a throw and scored on Travis d’Arnaud’s sacrifice fly.
"An incredible play and a game-changer for us," Mets captain David Wright said.
And for the Dodgers, too.
"Just a breakdown right there," manager Don Mattingly said.
Murphy had just two steals during the regular season.
"I’m not fleet afoot," he said, "but I was just fast enough to be able to get in there and make it."
Murphy’s opposite-field RBI double in the first drove in the game’s first run. Murphy homered in the sixth for a 3-2 lead, driving a 93 mph pitch about a dozen rows into the right-field seats.
Murphy, who had three hits, batted .333 in the series and homered three times off Greinke and Kershaw. He can be a free agent after the season ends.
"Daniel was a tough out all series," Mattingly said. "He’s always to me been a guy that’s been a tough out, pretty much hits everybody’s fastball."
DeGrom (2-0), the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year with the long, shaggy hair, struck out seven and walked three to earn his second road win of the series.
He allowed four straight singles in the first, when Justin Turner and Andre Ethier drove in runs for a 2-1 lead. Fellow starter Noah Syndergaard started warming up as early as the second inning, and deGrom pitched his only 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.
"I think I was a little amped up, and I just tried to make my pitches," deGrom said.
Syndergaard threw a hitless seventh in the rookie’s first big league relief appearance, and Jeurys Familia was perfect in the first six-out save of his big career.
Familia retired pinch-hitter Chase Utley — who earned the Mets’ wrath after his takeout slide broke shortstop Ruben Tejada’s leg in Game 2 — on a flyout leading off the ninth.
After Familia struck out Howie Kendrick to end the game, the Mets swarmed the mound, jumping up and down in unison. They quickly donned black T-shirts and exchanged hugs and high-fives while a small group of orange and blue-clad fans shouted, "Let’s go Mets!," the only noise in a stadium that emptied quickly.
"What a team win," Murphy said. "It felt like everybody got a piece of this one."
Greinke (1-1) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander, who led the majors with a 1.66 ERA, struck out nine and walked one. He could opt out after the season ends and as a free agent would likely command even bigger bucks than the guaranteed $71 million left on his contract.
"I was pitching good, I was feeling confident," Greinke said. "I decided to challenge him. Looking back at it, it was the wrong decision."
New York quickly will turn its attention to the Cubs. The NLCS, which starts Saturday night at Citi Field, is the first postseason meeting between the teams. Matt Harvey will start Game 1 for the Mets against Jon Lester.
Playing on the 27th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run, Los Angeles failed to come up with a big drive, going 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position after Ethier’s first-inning single.
"There are really no words to describe how you feel right now," said Mattingly, who could be out of a job after this latest postseason failure.
Despite a record $289 million payroll, the Dodgers remained without a World Series title since 1988.
"We have a good team here," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "We just need to keep working at it."
Los Angeles failed to capitalize with two runners on in both the second and third. After Turner doubled leading off the third, Ethier popped out to left.
Ethier returned the dugout and began yelling at Mattingly while simultaneously walking away from him. Mattingly followed, and twice Ethier turned toward Mattingly and yelled at him while gesturing angrily with his arms, pointing twice at the field and twice directly at Mattingly.
"There was nothing there other than he was mad about the ump’s call," Mattingly said. "I was trying to settle him down."
Turner doubled twice for a franchise-record six in one postseason series. But the Dodgers’ fell to 4-1 in elimination playoff games since moving to Los Angeles in 1958.
New York will be in the NLCS for the first time since 2006, when the Mets swept the Dodgers in the Division Series.
"Back in 2006, it was a little less stressful because we ended up sweeping them," Wright said. "So this is probably more gratifying and sweeter, just because we went through the pitchers we did to get to this point."