When New York Mets manager Terry Collins huddles up with his staff, he’s thinking and preaching about this perfect formula for Game 5.
By Robby Sabo
At this point for every member of the New York Mets organization, there’s not much left to say. The difference between losing and winning Game 5 of the NLDS provides a considerable gap between fortunes and misfortunes.
Should they falter against Zack Greinke and company, the season will suddenly end and the talk of the town will quickly turn to the offseason. Will Yoenis Cespedes magically return as a Met? Is Daniel Murphy as good as gone? Is it possible Matt Harvey could be traded?
Should they triumphantly win, there will be baseball in New York for at least another 10-14 days. The talk of a classic Mets-Cubs NLCS will intoxicate every walk of life and part of New York City.
Dreams of another Amazin’ team will dance through our heads.
The ultimate question remains: How will Terry Collins lead his troops to victory?
Every manager has an idea in mind going into a game. He has his starting pitcher and his lineup written on a card, with the appropriate backup plans in his back pocket. The lifetime numbers are memorized and pinch-hitters and bullpen specialists are already lined up should the right opportunity arise.
For Game 5 against the Dodgers, that very thinking will still be in play.
- Curtis Granderson, L (RF)
- David Wright, R (3B)
- Daniel Murphy, L (2B)
- Yoenis Cespedes, R (CF)
- Michael Conforto, L (LF)
- Travis d’Arnaud, R (C)
- Lucas Duda, L (1B)
- Wilmer Flores, R (SS)
- Jacob deGrom, L (P)
The lineup should remain relatively normal. The best part about facing Greinke (if there is any), is that young Michael Conforto will be in the lineup.
Facing lefties the past two nights, and three of the first four games, meant that Conforto could only start one game. In that one game (Game 2), Conforto went 1-for-4 with a run scored and 2 RBI. Watching him all season brings just one overriding theme to mind: He should be the Mets everyday left-fielder, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.
The only issue with that is the club wanted to ease him into the big leagues, so he only played against right-handed hitting upon his arrival to Flushing. Having only a handful of at-bats against lefties and then asking him to slide right in against Clayton Kershaw might be a tough thing to ask of the 22-year old youngster.
Still, he can hit. And for those who saw him all season long, you can tell he’s a pure hitter, the future No. 3 hitter for this franchise. His presence in the Game 5 lineup will be huge. Moreover, slotting him in the No. 5 hole – instead of a struggling Lucas Duda – could be money in the bank. It’ll offer Cespedes with the exact protection needed.
The other question mark with the lineup comes by way of first base. Duda is currently 2-for-15 in 16 plate appearances in the series. It’s obvious, while he can crush mediocre pitching, he struggles mightily against superior hurlers.
Having said that, no change should be made here. Merely having the presence of power out there is a must. During any at-bat he can run into a fastball and wreck the game. His ability to get hot over the course of just nine-innings is uncanny. Duda also provides the best option defensively at first-base (when compared to Michael Cuddyer or Murphy, who would slide to first if Kelly Johnson received the nod).
Stick with the lineup that got you to this point.
- Jacob deGrom – 5-8 IP
- Noah Syndergaard – 1-3 IP
- Jeurys Familia – 1-2 IP
Those three men listed should be the only three Mets pitchers who find themselves in the game on Thursday night. There should be no exceptions.
If all goes well, deGrom will throw a beauty. He’ll pitch eight-innings of shutout or one-run ball. But that’s only if all goes well.
Having Noah Syndergaard as the bridge from deGrom to Jeurys Familia might be the x-factor this Mets team needs. There is nobody in that pen Collins (or Mets fans for that matter) can trust leading up to their lights-out closer.
Syndergaard, while he pitched great in Game 2 and deserved a better outcome, fits the mold of a possible gem out of the pen. His pitch selection, demeanor and attitude out there on the mound seems like it will translate beautifully as a guy who can throw a couple of innings in a pressurized spot.
Because it’s Game 5, all hands will be on deck. Worry about Game 1 of the NLCS when it’s officially time to start worrying about it. Besides, the Mets will still have Matt Harvey and Steven Matz locked and loaded to begin that series against the Chicago Cubs should Thor use his arm on Thursday night.
Furthermore, knowing Syndergaard is ready to give Collins up to three innings of work, the message must get across to deGrom that pitching economically isn’t a major priority. Instead, he just needs to focus on getting the job done. Don’t worry about allowing the vulnerability of your club (the bullpen), ruin the season. You have Thor waiting in the wings.
This pitching lineup, while simplistic, is the only formula Collins has to be thinking about as he prepares to manage the biggest game of his life, and the Mets biggest game in nine seasons.
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