The Mets won Game 7.
That carried considerably less significance on Sept. 1 than it would on Oct. 25 — the scheduled date of NLCS Game 7 this year.
But does it carry any big-picture meaning? The Mets beat the Dodgers 5-3 on Thursday at Citi Field in a game with less pace and grace than the first two games of this series — games that had what Francisco Lindor called “a playoff vibe.”
The Mets won this three-game series and also the season series four games to three — thus, Game 7 between the Dodgers and Mets, the teams with the NL’s best records to date. The teams that have seemed on an NLCS collision course pretty much all year. The Mets outscored the Dodgers 25-24 in the seven games — an expression of how closely fought the New York-Los Angeles games have been.
And now (sorry) the disclaimers. It is great that the Mets inflicted the first series loss on the Dodgers since July 25-27. The last to do it? The Nationals, who have the NL’s worst record. It is terrific that the Mets won a season series against the most dominant club in the sport in 2022. But you know who has the best record against the Dodgers this year? That would be the Pirates, who went 5-1 against the Dodgers, yet still have the NL’s second-worst record.
So fickle stuff happens over the course of a long season and one series after another over six months. The Mets once won a season series 10-1 over the Dodgers and outscored them 49-18 and then lost the 1988 NLCS in seven games to Los Angeles.
Thus, I hate to spoil the obvious theme, especially because these games were so fun and the crowds were large and the passion exceeded that of normal regular-season games. Still, approach drawing too much information and involvement out of these seven games with caution. As Max Scherzer said of this series: “The stakes aren’t there. They’re big games. They feel big, but the stakes aren’t there. When you play long enough, you know it is different when your season is on the line.”
Scherzer, who has started a World Series Game 7 among his 26 postseason appearances, added, “There’s a completely different vibe once it’s win or go home. And we’re not there yet.”
Lindor, who has played in a World Series Game 7, said, “These games have been great. The fans are really into them. But the anxiety, the nerves, the butterflies, they’re not there yet. … We know there is a tomorrow right now.”
Buck Showalter acknowledged that the Dodgers are in a “different mode” these days. They have earned the right to be in that mode. After not losing two straight games all of August, the Dodgers lost a second straight on the first day of September. They have 90 wins — that might be enough to capture the NL West if they do not win again.
Scherzer noted the Dodgers already have their division sealed while the Mets have a lot more work to do if they are going to hold off the Braves in the NL East. And the Dodgers played Thursday like a club that had eased up on the gas a bit, performing without familiar polish, particularly second baseman Gavin Lux. But the Mets capitalized on many of the shortcomings with hustle, a few clutch at-bats and a brilliant all-around effort by Lindor.
And as Showalter said, “It’s good to establish that we can play with them.”
The Dodgers did play their “A” lineup throughout this series and the team leading the majors by averaging nearly 5 ¹/₂ runs per game scored just eight in the three games.
In the finale, Chris Bassitt settled down from a difficult second inning — aided by bad baserunning by Lux and poor third-base coaching from Dino Ebel — and blocked out a more than six-minute delay with two outs in the third when there was an argument about when and whether the stadium lights should be on to hold the Dodgers to two runs in six innings.
Max Muncy and Justin Turner came within a few feet each of hitting tying three-run homers off flat Edwin Diaz sliders in the eighth inning. Turner’s drive went for a sacrifice fly and just the second run scored off the Mets closer since mid-June. Lacking his best slider, Diaz finished off Lux to end the eighth with a 102.8 mph fastball — “a pretty good Plan B” as Showalter described it.
Adam Ottavino pitched a stress-free ninth and the Mets had a series victory and a season series victory over the Dodgers. They won this Game 7.
Will there be another?