Posted: Sunday October 8, 2006 11:44AM; Updated: Sunday October 8, 2006 11:44AM
As the game went on, the Mets would keep putting themselves in jeopardy -- and simply render that jeopardy irrelevant.
In the bottom of the first, Wright offlined a one-on, two-out throw to first base that allowed the tying run to come to bat, but Drew of the Dodgers grounded out.
In the bottom of the fourth, with two on and one out, Betemit hit a can of corn to right-centerfield, but the Mets just shucked it, letting it fall for a hit. That loaded the bases for Loney, who singled to left-center, getting the Dodgers off the mat and cutting New York's lead to 4-2. On top of that, an error by Beltran put Loney at second base and Betemit at third. But the Mets escaped by turning Dodger pinch-hitter AndreEthier's line drive into an inning-ending double play.
It didn't even matter that Los Angeles took a 5-4 lead the next inning on a rally capped by a bases-loaded walk to Loney, appearing in his first career postseason game. It didn't matter that the Mets found themselves facing the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson wannabe, the quadriceps-challenged Nomar Garciaparra, with the bases loaded.
None of it mattered. The Mets had an answer for everything. They could study like Bart Simpson if they wanted to, but when the tests came, they aced them like Lisa. New York retired Garciaparra on a comebacker, kicked around Dodger reliever Jonathan Broxton for three runs in the sixth, added a pair off Brett Tomko (aided by a Betemit error) in the eighth, and just waited around long enough to make sure the late-season magic that had pushed the Dodgers into the playoffs had run out.
In the series' three games, Lo Duca had a 1.045 OPS. Delgado was at 1.071. Floyd at 1.278. Green and Wright a cool .889 and .885. With an on-base percentage of nearly .400, the Mets' offense overwhelmed Los Angeles, from veteran starting pitchers Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux to the Dodgers' beleaguered bullpen, while Randolph used six pitchers in Game 1, four and Game 2 and seven in Game 3 to stretch out the injury-depleted New York staff (no Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez or Duaner Sanchez) without busting it.
The Dodgers' postseason record since their 1988 World Series victory dropped to 1-12, and many will find this year's 3-0 series loss to be added embarrassment for them. But their two rookie starters Saturday, Loney and catcher Russell Martin, combined to reach base seven times in Game 3, exemplifying a maturing farm system that seems destined to keep them a viable contender in coming seasons.
But for the Mets, 2006 is very much the story. Days removed from being an upset special, they find themselves the last team standing in New York (after the Yankees' elimination by the Detroit Tigers), and their victory Saturday was their 100th since Opening Day. The mice may play when this cat's away, but this cat won't go away easily.