playoffs 2015: Mets show it's the fight in the (under)dog as they reach NLCS

LOS ANGELES — One by one, the Mets offered words of praise to the two guys who saved them in Game 5 of the NL Division Series: Jacob deGrom, who survived without his killer fastball, and Daniel Murphy, who single-handedly took down Zack Greinke. None of this was easy, none of it was likely. Goodness, it should’ve been impossible.But here the Mets are, on the doorstep of the NL Championship Series against the Cubs after a gutty 3-2 win over the Dodgers on Thursday night. That’s the only word that applies, first to deGrom for lasting six innings with diminished stuff and, second, to Murphy, who hit the game-winning home run off Greinke. The blast capped off a three-hit night that, if not historic, will at least turn the second baseman into a cult hero in Flushing. MORE: Top NLDS photos | Collins' gamble with Familia was worth taking The dead-cold silence at Dodger Stadium after the last out told you the Mets had beaten the odds in every way in this series. They snaked by Greinke, the league’s ERA champion, and Clayton Kershaw, the strikeout machine, without even having home-field advantage.No wonder the Mets started a party for the ages on the mound, mobbing each other as the Dodgers walked off the field, stunned. Related News playoffs 2015: Best photos from the National League Division Series “It’s an unbelievable feeling to have these guys play the way they did,” manager Terry Collins said afterward. "When you go in a five-game series and get Kershaw and Greinke four times and you win, you  better be proud of yourself, because that’s a tremendous accomplishment to pull that off.”That’s what made the victory so compelling: The Mets initially looked so tentative, a vibe the sold-out crowd picked up on immediately. The fans had seen on TV how Kershaw kept the series alive with a brilliant performance of his own in Game 4 in New York. All the Dodgers needed now were nine good innings and they’d be one step closer to the World Series.So you better believe the place turned into an asylum in the first inning, when deGrom coughed up the Mets’ 1-0 lead. The Dodgers looked comfortable against the right-hander, taking advantage of a fastball that was clocked at 95 and 96 mph instead of the 98s and 99s they’d seen in Game 1.DeGrom didn’t lie about the drop-off. He admitted he was too “amped up” to re-create the magic of his 13-strikeout performance in Game 1. DeGrom knew this was the biggest game of the season, the seminal moment in his career, and he reacted with an old-fashioned case of nerves.MORE: Five takeaways from the Mets' win | NLCS schedule: Game 1 in NY on Saturday“That was the last thing I wanted to do, go out there and give up the lead,” deGrom said later. “But after that I just tried to calm it down.”One out, then four straight singles, and the Dodgers were leading 2-1. The place indeed went crazy; images of a Dodgers-Cubs NLCS were already taking shape, perhaps rightfully so. Let’s face it, no one could’ve faulted the Mets had they fallen short.They were, after all, the underdogs against LA. Even until the end, there were non-believers waiting to pounce, especially after they’d failed to put the Dodgers away when they had the chance at home.But deGrom, who refused to buckle, had other ideas. So did Murphy, who batted .333 (7 for 21) with three home runs and compensated for the slumps of David Wright (.063) and Lucas Duda (.111) and Travis d’Arnaud (.158).The Mets collectively batted .208 in the series, which is to say, it was Murphy against the Dodgers all by himself. Will his brilliance change ownership’s thinking about letting him leave as a free agent this winter? That’ll be one of the organization’s first priorities, deciding what to do with a mid-level slugger who is neither young (30) nor a bona fide home-run hitter (his 14 this year were a career high) nor an especially gifted defender.MORE: Mets' 10 most memorable postseason momentsMurphy will likely command a three-year deal worth $30 million on the open market. Until now, the Mets were preparing to allocate that money elsewhere, perhaps to keep Yoenis Cespedes in New York. But the Mets will have to at least re-think that calculus after Murphy lifted a missile of a home run to right in the sixth inning — the one that sunk Greinke and, ultimately, the Dodgers.“Zack and I were dancing around all night,” Murphy said. “I’m trying to figure out what he’s doing, I think he’s trying to figure out when I’m doing. Fortunately I was able to get in a positive count and put a pre

tty good (swing) on his changeup, which I don’t do very often. And I got the heater finally in the spot that I was looking for, and fortunately I didn’t miss it.” Murphy’s homer gave the Mets the lead, but it wouldn’t have been the game-winner had he not literally stolen a run in the fourth inning, taking third after Duda drew a walk. Murphy, on second, took advantage of the Dodgers’ shift against Duda, which left third base unattended. No one, Greinke included, was paying attention, which allowed Murphy to sprint to the open base.MORE: Ethier yells at Mattingly in dugoutMoments later, he scored the tying run on d’Arnaud’s sacrifice fly.And you wonder why the Mets think they’re untouchable right now? Matt Harvey said, “We feel very confident going into the (NLCS)” because they emerged from the Division Series as the tougher, more resilient team.DeGrom worked out of jams in each of the first three innings — by striking out Yasmani Grandal and Kike Hernandez in the first inning, blowing away Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez in the second, and then getting Hernandez to bounce into a rally-killing double play in the third.Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was right when he said, “when (DeGrom) he needed those outs it seemed like he was able to run the fastball up there to get us going, and then he was able to use the change to finish us off.”Somehow, deGrom got 15 swings and misses, nerves and all. Shows you what kind of roll the Mets are on. They’re headed for a showdown with the Cubs as underdogs (again), but it would be a mistake to underestimate them. Just ask the Dodgers.— Bob Klapisch covers the Mets for The Record in Bergen County, N.J.

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