The Legend Of Daniel Murphy continues to be told in the neighborhoods of Queens, as the New York Mets’ second baseman came up with yet another clutch performance in helping the Mets open the National League Championship Series with a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Murphy, swinging a hot bat in October and a big hero in his team’s Game 5 Division Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, got the scoring started last night with a home run off Jon Lester. Murphy has now hit postseason home runs off Lester, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. And in the ninth inning, when the Cubs had a man aboard, Murphy came up with a defensive gem to end the game.
Matt Harvey was the other hero for the Mets last night, pitching brilliantly for 7 2/3 innings. Harvey did what we normally see from Lester in October. The Cubs’ lefthander wasn’t bad last night, but he was spotty—something that’s not unusual in the regular season, but is below his October standards.
Lester gave up four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. Right after the Cubs had tied the game 1-1 in the fifth, Lester gave up single runs in the bottom of the inning, the sixth and the seventh. It wasn’t like he was overwhelmed or had nothing, but it was not an outing you can have in the playoffs and expect to win.
Chicago is still in a decent position. They hit the ball hard several times last night and got some bad luck. They have Jake Arrieta on the mound for Game 2 tonight (8 PM ET, TBS) and if they win behind the probable Cy Young Award winner, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for three games with the series tied.
The reverse narrative is that New York has ace Jacob de Grom, who beat Kershaw and Greinke in the Division Series, going for Game 3 while Chicago will be into the weaker part of its rotation. Which basically means both teams have to play tonight with a real sense of urgency.
Speaking of senses of urgency, the Toronto Blue Jays are feeling it now after losing the first two games in Kansas City and facing Johnny Cueto in Monday night’s Game 3 back in the Rogers Centre. Yesterday afternoon’s loss was a particularly bitter pill.
David Price was cruising through six innings, looking every bit the one-time Cy Young Award winner he is (2012) and nothing like the man who came into the game with a postseason numbers of 0-6 and 5-plus ERA as a starter. The Blue Jays led 3-0, when two successive plays happened that triggered a cave-in.
Media focus today is on Ben Zobrist’s at-bat that led off the bottom of the seventh. Officially, it’s a bloop single. To those watching, it was an obvious miscommunication between second baseman Ryan Goins and rightfielder Jose Bautista, with the fault lying on Goins, who first signaled for the ball and then backed off.
But perhaps being overlooked is what happened in the top of the seventh. Bautista was at the plate, full count and nobody on. A pitch that was clearly low was called a strike. Bautista was obviously and justifiably unhappy. This was the middle of the Blue Jay lineup, with Edwin Encarcion on deck, so anything that extends an inning is a big deal.
I’m not going to say that because one ball-strike call was missed, that it justifies a five-run collapse in the bottom of the inning. All I can say is that I went on alert after the blown call, sensing that it was the kind of thing that can be the first crack in the dam, and that alert heightened dramatically after the mess up on Zobrist’s “hit”.
Jose Bautista is not an easy player to have sympathy for, at least based on his on-field persona. But he was at the center of two plays that turned the tide in this game and neither one was his fault.
The ALCS will take off Sunday to travel to Canada. The NLCS resumes tonight in New York with the Mets sending Noah Syndergaard to try and beat Arrieta.