LOS ANGELES – The Mets have waited nine years to return to the NLCS.
The wait is over.
Thursday night it was all guts as the Mets rallied to beat the Dodgers 3-2 in the deciding Game 5 at Dodgers Stadium. Jacob deGrom gutted out six innings without his best stuff and Daniel Murphy provided the smart, game-changing play – and a little power – advancing the Mets to the National League Championship Series, where they will face the Chicago Cubs.
The Mets will host the Cubs, who swept the Mets in seven games this season, for Game 1 of the NLCS Saturday at Citi Field. It was the first time Mets had won an elimination game on the road in franchise history.
And they did it with great pitching and a heads-up play from Murphy.
DeGrom, who had overwhelmed the Dodgers in Game 1, had to grind through six innings Thursday night. He allowed two runs on six hits. He struck out seven and walked three. He threw 105 pitches and 57 of those pitches were thrown with runners in scoring position, working under stress all night.
Murphy, who could have been playing in his last game as a Met, made that stand up for deGrom. He went 3-for-4 with two RBI and scored the Mets other run.
When the Mets’ bats seemed to be slowly dying against Cy Young favorite Zack Greinke, Murphy made a big play on the bases in the fourth, which put him in position to score the game-tying run.
The Dodgers over-shifted toward right field with Lucas Duda at the plate. When Duda was issued a walk, Murphy trotted to second, but Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was slow returning to his position and Murphy bolted to third.
From there, Murphy scored the tying run on Travis d’Arnaud’s sacrifice fly to right field.
But Murphy wasn’t done making big plays. He broke a 2-2 deadlock with a solo home run into the right field seats off Greinke.
Murphy finished a triple shy of the cycle and ended the series 7-for-20 with five RBI and three home runs. He had two off three-time Cy Young winner left-hander Clayton Kershaw – one in Game 1 and one in Game 4 – and Thursday night’s off Greinke, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball this season.
Murphy had initially given deGrom a 1-0 lead in the first. Curtis Granderson had beaten out an infield single to second, only after a 1:03-minute review, and scored thanks to Kike Hernandez’s error on Murphy’s double to the wall.
DeGrom needed that second-chance Thursday night, because he was not super sharp.
In Game 1, deGrom had carried the Mets to the win, out-dueling Kershaw and dominating the Dodgers’ hitters with a blazing fastball that the L.A. offense could not catch up with. Thursday night deGrom clearly did not have the same velocity or command of his fastball and had to work with his off-speed stuff.
After allowing just five hits and only two hard-hit balls in seven innings work of Game 1, deGrom gave up four straight hard-hit singles with one out in the first Thursday. Corey Seager lined a single to left and Adrian Gonzalez followed with a line drive single to right, putting runners on the corners for Justin Turner.
The Dodgers third baseman lined a single to right to score Seager and Andre Ethier’s fly ball to shallow left field scored Gonzalez for the go-ahead run.
DeGrom looked so shaky that Terry Collins had Noah Syndergaard warming up in the bullpen in the second inning after his starter walked Joc Pederson to lead off the inning, but deGrom would hang in there.
Collins, concerned about the young right-hander’s confidence, made a gutsy call to finally bring in Syndergaard, who was up and throwing three times during the game, to pitch the seventh for his first-ever relief appearance. Throwing fastballs that touched 100 miles an hours, he threw a hellacious curveball down to strike out Justin Turner to end the inning.
It was the first time all night the Mets had been able to retire Turner. The former Met went 10-for-15 in the series.
Jeurys Familia relieved Syndergaard in for the eighth inning and earned an six-out save, the first of his career.
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