The second baseman committed a costly miscue in the 8th inning which brought home the tying run and then it was all downhill for the Mets who lost by a score of 5-3.
When things begin to go bad for the Mets, the wheels don’t just fall off. Yeah, the wheels go, but then the car rolls off a cliff and bursts into flames.
For some reason, manager Terry Collins (plenty to come on him), continues to rely on Tyler Clippard in the 8th inning despite him being largely ineffective during the postseason.
Given a one run lead and asked to bridge the gap to closer, Jeurys Familia, Clippard retired the lead off man before issuing consecutive walks forcing Collins’ hand to bring in Familia to attempt a five-out save.
Familia did induce a slow grounder from Eric Hosmer, but Murphy tried to rush the play and the ball rolled under his glove allowing Ben Zobrist to score the tying run and leaving runners at the corners with just one out. Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez followed with RBI singles and suddenly a 3-2 Mets lead had turned into a soul-crushing defeat.
The Mets did attempt to rally in the 9th against Royals closer, Wade Davis, but that was snuffed out when Yoenis Cespedes got caught up in no man’s land on the bases and was doubled up on a soft liner by Lucas Duda that was caught by Moustakas.
Indeed, the Mets went full Mets and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
It may seem like I’m laying the majority of the blame on Murphy. He does deserve some of the blame, sure. He’s a major leaguer and that play HAS to be made especially in the situation. But this is what Daniel Murphy is and has been for his entire career: a streaky hitter who is prone to horrible lapses in the field and on the basepaths.
And Cespedes has to get some blame there too for wandering so far off first base on a play that was right in front of him. He also kicked a ball in the outfield (again) earlier in the game that led to a Kansas City score. It has not exactly been a series to remember for him.
But the majority of the blame (also again) has to fall on the shoulders of Terry Collins. Yes, players have to play and execute, but it is the manager’s job to put said players in the position to succeed and Collins simply is far from a skilled tactician.
After starting strong, Steven Matz looked to be losing his stuff after giving up a run in the 5th. Fastball seemed to be losing bite and his curveball, which had been incredibly effective to that point, lost some of the snap it had.
With Matz due to hit third in the bottom of the frame, logic dictated to pat him on the back and remove him for a pinch hitter. Collins said to hell with logic and tried to push Matz through a sixth inning in which he was removed after giving up a run and retiring nobody. Jonathon Niese came out of the bullpen to retire a pair and was then replaced by Bartolo Colon who struck out Perez in a battle of at bat to cling to the lead.
Having burned both his long men by using both Niese and Colon it would have made sense for Collins to try to get more length from Bartolo who’s proven to be effective out of the bullpen during the playoffs.
But if you were expecting Collins to make a good, critical managing decision, you were once again disappointed as he stuck to his script and tried to get by with his less-than-menacing 7th and 8th combo of Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard.
Reed, acquired from the Diamondbacks in August, got hit hard, but was able to get through the 7th unscathed. Clippard was not able to repeat Reed’s success which set the table for the rest of the disaster.
In addition to just plain catching the baseball, the Mets needed to limit the exposure of their bullpen which is a definite weakness. Anything between the starting pitcher and Familia was a question mark, but Terry Collins has been managing as he has the Cincinnati Reds’ Nasty Boys from 1990 out there.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. This is not some ho-hum series against the Rockies in June. You cannot manage the same way in the World Series as you would during the regular season. Especially not when losing a game can put you in a 3-1 hole.
Giving Colon the 7th (assuming he had a good inning) could have set you up for either another inning of Colon in the 8th or even a six-out save opportunity for Familia.
Six outs from Familia probably would have been the preferred direction for most people, but after Collins used him for absolutely no reason with a six run lead in game three, two more innings in game four would most likely leave him unavailable for game five.
So Collins went to what was not ideal to most anybody watching or playing along at home. He went to the script. The same script that said Kelly Johnson should get a pinch hitting appearance over Juan Uribe because he bats lefty. The same script that has him bunting at every opportunity. The same script that effectively cost his team the game and possibly the World Series.
When you’re a Mets fan who has been through the heartbreak and the disappointment, your emotions tend to get overexaggerated because there’s simply not enough important games for you to temper your excitement or fear. The good becomes amazing and the bad becomes the equivalent of getting kicked in the balls while watching your dog run away.
I love the Mets. And, I don’t think this series is over because of this game. But I also don’t think it should be this close to being over either.
If there’s one thing to get you excited, it should be that the next three games will be started by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. If that’s what the season comes down to, well, dammit, I’ll take my chances with those three.
Under no circumstance do I think the Royals will be overconfident or act as if they’ve already wrapped this up. They are a damn solid ball club who was just in the position of needing only one more win last year. They will be coming to play.
The Mets have spent the past four years under general manager, Sandy Alderson, rebuilding around solid, young starting pitching. The same solid, young starting pitching that kept them afloat when they couldn’t buy runs for what seemed liked weeks at a time during May and June and most of July. The same starting pitching that shut down the heavily favored Nationals when it mattered and then kept the Dodgers and Cubs in check to get to this point.
The future is today for that starting pitching. The team is in an unenviable but not impossible hole and it’s time for the aces to come out acing.
On paper, you can say that this looks like just the beginning of a run for the team. The Mets should be good and competitive for the next five, seven, ten years. I don’t buy that.
I have watched enough sports and enough baseball and, especially, enough Mets to know that “on paper” doesn’t always pan out. Life isn’t fair. Sometimes, Goliath kicks the shit out of David. But sometimes, you get one chance to do something that can be remembered for generations.
It’s why the 1986 team is still so special. For as great as they were, that group never returned to the World Series and there’s been books dedicated to all the “what-ifs” that followed.
For the 25 guys in that locker room, this is the last week that they will ever all be teammates. Even in a minimal situation, there are always some kind of roster moves that go along with a fresh baseball season. This is their one opportunity to do something special as a group.
The Mets will enter game five with their backs against the walls and their season teetering on the edge, but with the chance to do something great and memorable.
I’m not ready for this season to end and I’m damn sure neither are they. It may be unlikely, but it’s not impossible. It starts with one.
It’s time for Mets fans to get not just the hero they need, but the one they deserve. It’s time for Matt Harvey to stand up, put the team on his back and be the superhero he relishes in being compared to.
No more innings limits, no more Scott Boras, no Rangers games or Russian supermodels. For game five, for the Mets and for Matt Harvey, there is only one word remaining.