October 9, 2015: New York Mets at the Los Angeles Dodgers
Shortly after clinching their first division title since 2006 came the first test for the newly crowned NL East Champs: Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. The Mets would send Jacob deGrom to the mound to face off with the undisputed best pitcher in baseball. Cracking the Dodgers ace was no easy task, but with Zack Greinke waiting in Game 2, the Mets needed to find a way to get to Kershaw.
A Familiar Foe
David Wright had only been to the postseason one other time before 2015, and that was the heartbreaking run of 2006. However, the Mets had faced the Dodgers in the opening series of those 2006 playoffs, and swept them in dominating fashion. While Wright posted a mere .160 batting average in the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets Captain had performed strongly against Los Angeles in the 2006 NLDS with a .333 batting average. Thirteen plate appearances and four RBI are nothing to get excited over, especially since the 2006 Dodgers lacked Clayton Kershaw, but the Dodgers were a familiar opponent to Wright, and it did seemingly give him the confidence needed to come through when his team needed him most.
A Pitcher’s Duel Ensues
Clayton Kershaw was sharp, and for the Mets, that meant one thing: trouble. Through the first three innings, Kershaw recorded strikeouts on six on the nine outs he induced, including striking out David Wright. However, as part of what would become a historic postseason for him, Daniel Murphy opened the scoring with a 407 foot home run off Kershaw.
Luckily for the Mets, deGrom was sharp too. The former NL Rookie of the Year struck out the side in the first two innings. While Kershaw struck out an impressive eleven, deGrom one-upped him by striking out thirteen and surrendering no runs. The Mets led 1-0, but with deGrom nursing a high pitch count, this would not be enough to seal the victory for the Amazin’s. After being frustrated by the Dodgers ace for much of the game, the Mets finally began to get something brewing in the top of the seventh inning.
The Captain Seals Game 1 of the NLDS
Lucas Duda opened the frame by drawing a walk off the tough lefty. Then, Michael Cuddyer grounded out, but Duda was able to stay out of the double-play and advance to second. A Ruben Tejada walk followed. Feeling one more inning in him, Terry Collins then sent Jacob deGrom to the plate. deGrom, to no one’s surprise, executed a successful sacrifice bunt, moving the runners to second and third with two outs.
Following a Curtis Granderson walk, David Wright was coming to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in a 1-0 game. With Kershaw having already thrown 113 pitches, Don Mattingly opted for the righty-righty matchup, and brought in Pedro Baez to face Wright. With the count full and the chance for the Mets to take a defining lead slipping away, the Captain smacked a line drive into center field. Two runs would score. The Mets would go on to surrender a run, but would ultimately take Game 1 by a score of 3-1. Without the heroics of the Captain, the Mets very well may not have taken Game 1 and could have lost this series, which they won in five games. For that, we thank you Mr. Wright.
If you haven’t already, check out the first two articles in this series: