LOS ANGELES - It was impossible not to see the symbolism in all of the drama. On a night when the Yankees exited the postseason stage, right there for all to see on the Dodger Stadium video board during pregame batting practice, the Mets looked ready to claim it as their own.
Will they finally claim ownership of New York again as well, when all is said and done this month? Last night was not the night to argue against such a notion.
It wasn't only that the Mets finished off the Dodgers, winning, 9-5, last night to complete the three-game sweep of their division series. It was the way they did it, with heart and grit, storming right back after blowing a 4-0lead, as if welcoming the opportunity to prove their championship mettle. Kind of like the Yankees used to do it.
Don't think the Mets didn't revel in the timing, moving on as the Yankees went off the tracks. There were Yankee-related chants in the locker room amid all the champagne spraying, and some private "can you believe it?" comments of delight from key members of the organization.
As comatose as they went against the Tigers, the Yankees were the one team the Mets didn't want to face in the World Series, because of the potential damage their lineup could have done to this crippled starting rotation. The Mets still have to get there, of course, but it's hard to see how they won't right now. Though the Dodgers put up a fight last night, they weren't in the same weight class with the Mets in this series.
And honestly, have you seen anything in the other series between the Cardinals and the Padres to make you think either team can stop the Mets from winning the pennant?
Naturally, nobody wanted to admit how happy he was about the turn of events. But perhaps only Willie Randolph, the old Yankee, could summon up any sympathy for the Bombers.
"I know they were looking forward to (a Subway Series)," he said. "I know they feel badly because everyone thought they'd get there, but no matter what people may say about a juggernaut or Murderer's Row, you gotta play the game.
"I feel for them, but I'm happy my guys are moving on. New York should be proud of this team."
Randolph wasn't getting ahead of himself, but there seems to be more belief now than ever in the Met clubhouse. Maybe nothing will be easy the rest of the way, because the state of the Mets' starting pitching almost assures more wild games like this one, as the Dodgers rallied for five runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
But in the end, the Mets' bullpen again demonstrated that it can dominate the late innings. Between that and a lineup that scored 19 runs in these three games, the Mets once again look like far and away the best team in their league.
In the next series, of course, they'll have to start Oliver Perez at least once, a frightening prospect they avoided with the victory last night.
On the other hand, Steve Trachsel won't be pitching after a two-week layoff. Actually, Trachsel pitched pretty well last night, and probably shouldn't have been pulled when Randolph went to the pen in the fourth inning.
Randolph made it clear from the first game in this series that he will lean heavily on his bullpen, and rightly so, but Trachsel had breezed through three innings. And even when he got in trouble in the fourth, it was largely because of an infield single and a blooper to right-center that should have been caught.
But Randolph saw four straight hits and, as he put it, "I didn't want the game to get away. I wanted to close the deal tonight."
This time, however, the quick hook backfired, when the Dodgers rallied in the fifth for three more runs against Darren Oliver, Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano, giving L.A. a 5-4 lead.
Then came a pivotal moment, as Dodgers manager Grady Little put Nomar Garciaparra and his bad leg up to pinch-hit for reliever Mark Hendrickson with the bases loaded and a chance to break open the game.
You had to wonder why Randolph didn't have a righthander warming up in the pen. If he's not going to use Roberto Hernandez there, maybe he's not going to use him at all.
Randolph, however, said it was simply that he believes in Feliciano, and "I wanted to force their hand, make them use their righthanded hitters off the bench early."
It was a dangerous position to take, but Randolph seems to be making all the right moves, much like his mentor, Joe Torre did for so many Octobers. This one worked, too, as Feliciano got Nomar on a weak ground ball to end the inning.
THE METS made a statement by coming right back with three runs, and that was that. It was as if they understood the opportunity to seize the moment.
The stage is all theirs. The bright lights don't seem to faze them.
I give all the credit due to teh Mets they where in 1st place through out the whole season - they did it without Pedro for a long time and now with out Pedro or El Duque - Wille has this team firing on all cylinders i find it amazing how the reporters jump the band wagon - When they announced El duqie and Pedro out the reporters all but ended the seaosn for the Mets - Yankees win game 1 and jeter goes 5 for 5 and its all yankes all the time - now 4 days later they say 1 team 1 city - what a crock from those writers - Come March 30, 2007 what ever the outcome may be for teh Mets or whom ever the Yankee manager will be the papers will be jocking teh yAnkees again -
Look, the Mets did well, but if you think this puts even the slightest dent in the Yankee armor, think again.
Win 24 more Championships, then puff your chest.
SAR i hate to break it to you but aside from the 4 title stretch in the late 90s the yankees have been mediocre at least in my lifetime........so you go ahead and take credit for the 1927 WS but the yankees mistique has gotten crapped on recently by more then one team.