New York Mets and Daniel Murphy eliminate LA Dodgers with 3-2 win in Game 5 of NLDS

October 16, 2015

Los Angeles – Another year, another disturbing postseason exit for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their $300 million payroll.

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy hit a sixth inning solo blast, had an RBI double, and made a clever steal to generate another run and lead the Mets to a 3-2, Game 5 National League Division Series win over the Dodgers in front of 54,602 fans Thursday night at Chavez Ravine.

Unlike the Dodgers' recent playoff eliminations, there was no singular convenient scapegoat to blame.  No glaring bullpen failures comparable to past seasons. No drastic collapse by their ace Clayton Kershaw.

Instead, it was simply a case of the Mets being the better team, as New York performed better in the clutch and executed the simple fundamentals of the game.

"It's just disappointing," said Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly.  "I don't think there is anyway to soften that blow."

The Dodgers were coming off an emotional win in Game 4 and had their Cy Young candidate, Zack Greinke, on the mound, but it was Mets starter Jacob deGrom who ultimately was able to get the win by repeatedly pitching out of trouble and stranding multiple Dodger runners in scoring position throughout the evening.

In six innings, deGrom threw 105 pitches, allowed two runs, and struck out seven.

The Mets got on the board immediately in the first inning when Murphy doubled to left-center field over the head of Joc Pederson to score Curtis Granderson from first and put the Mets up 1-0.

The Dodgers answered right back in the bottom of the first with four straight singles by Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, and Andre Ethier, taking a 2-1 lead.

However, with two men on and just one out, deGrom – who did not have the same dominant stuff as in his Game 1 gem – struck out Yasmani Grandal and Enrique Hernandez to end the inning and leave two Dodgers on base.

The sequence would end up being a familiar pattern throughout the night, as Los Angeles would end up just 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

"He had command to nothing, and all he did was battle and battle and battle to give you six innings," said Mets Manager Terry Collins of deGrom.

Greinke settled down and pitched consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the second and third before Murphy struck again with an intelligent, game-changing play on the basepaths.

Murphy led off the fourth inning with a single, eventually bringing left-handed hitter Lucas Duda up to the plate with one out. The Dodgers went into a defensive shift with third baseman Justin Turner moving over to the right side of the infield, and rookie Corey Seager staying home at shortstop.

When Duda drew a walk, Murphy trotted over to second base and noticed that no Dodger player was covering third. He shifted into overdrive and swiped third base, gaining the Mets a free 90 feet.

"I take off and give a look and hope nobody's called timeout, and then at that point I'm not fleet afoot, but I was just fast enough to be able to get in there and make it," said Murphy.

“Corey’s on that side, he’s got to stay over there,” said Mattingly of Seager's responsibility on the play. “But really we should all be kind of, as far as on the field, be kind of communicating ‘get to third, get to third.’ So just a breakdown right there.”

The Dodgers' defensive lapse would prove highly costly, as Murphy would tie the score at 2-2 when Travis d’Arnaud brought him home on a sacrifice fly to right field.

Murphy then put the Mets ahead for good in the sixth, launching a full count Greinke fastball -- a pitch Greinke threw from the stretch without anyone on base -- into the stands in right field for a 3-2 lead.  It was Murphy's third home run of the series.  He would have three hits in the game, and bat .333 for the series.

"He's always to me been a guy that's been a tough out, pretty much hits everybody's fastball," said Mattingly of Murphy. "Get in fastball counts with him and you know you're in trouble."

After a 1-2-3 inning by deGrom in the bottom of the sixth, Mets manager Terry Collins left nothing to chance, bringing rocket-armed starter Noah Syndergaard out of the 'pen to pitch the seventh, and having closer Jeurys Familia make a six-out save to end the game.

"If we've got the lead in 8th inning, we've got to roll the dice," said Collins of his move to bring in Familia early.  "We've got, in my opinion, if he's not the best closer in the National League, he's one of the best closers in all of baseball.  You've got to go to him."

Greinke would finish the evening with nine strikeouts on 103 pitches.  If this was the potential free agent's last start in a Dodger uniform, Greinke at least received plenty of support from third baseman Justin Turner, who went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two doubles.  Turner batted .526 during the playoffs and set a new franchise playoff record with six doubles in a single series.

The Mets will now face the Chicago Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

As for the Dodgers, their future plans won't be so simple.

On a night when the Dodgers were celebrating the anniversary of Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run, and also had Dodger great Orel Hershiser throwing out the first pitch, it was astonishing to see how quickly all those positive vibes eroded.

Ethier, who started the game strongly with an RBI single in the first inning and a great diving catch in the second, saw his game nosedive soon afterward with a heated dugout exchange with Mattingly, and a later failure to drive in another run when given the chance.

Ethier's decline was similar to the rest of the team, as the Dodgers collectively lost their composure and failed to rise to the occasion in this elimination game.

Which brings up the subject of Mattingly's employment.

After the game, a reporter asked Mattingly about his job security, prompting him to curtly respond, "Seriously, you're asking me that now?"

Mattingly was hired prior to the new ownership group and has failed to advance the team to the World Series the past three seasons.  While he has been able to more or less successfully navigate egos in the clubhouse -- no small feat given the personalities on this team -- he also has come under fire for some of his in-game decisions.

Although his moves in this series did not come under much scrutiny, his team's lack of poise and execution should not be ignored.  Mattingly must share some responsibility in a scenario where his team essentially beat itself with its own mistakes.

The front office should also be questioned as well.

Although the new regime brought an analytics emphasis, discarded sluggers Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, added youth to the roster, and adopted a more defense-oriented approach, it also failed to add a high quality third starter to help Greinke and Kershaw.  That blunder proved especially troublesome when the Dodgers were blown out in Game 3.

Next season, Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager should be locks at first base and shortstop, respectively, but the rest of the lineup has questions.

The outfield is a logjam, starting in center field where Joc Pederson may have the defensive talents to start, but needs to first rebuild his swing after slumping the entire second half of the season.

Right fielder Yasiel Puig is a talented bargain, but regressed due to multiple hamstring problems this season.  Throw in the expensive contracts of Ethier and Carl Crawford, and it becomes difficult for the Dodgers to complete a deal in order to ease the outfield congestion.

The starting rotation also figures to be in flux.  Greinke can opt out of his deal, and due to his age, the Dodgers might choose to let him walk.  Projected number three Hyun-jin Ryu is coming off surgery, so there is no telling just how good he might be.

Regardless of what changes occur next year, the Dodgers will still be trying to find that delicate mix of the right kids and veterans to bring home a title.

If they need a model to follow, they need only look across the field at their opponents, who somehow found the right recipe to advance, and for a much cheaper price too.

By Mike Elliott
Editor for

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