The chill of the winter tracked the Mets down here, its long reach piercing through the warmth of Dodger Stadium. It loomed overhead, a menacing presence, threatening to end the season that brought hope back to Flushing.
So many times Thursday night, in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, the darkness beckoned. A lesser team might have acquiesced. Not these Mets, not now, not yet.
Together, Jacob deGrom and Daniel Murphy pushed the sun back into the sky. The Mets will see tomorrow, their reward for beating the Dodgers, 3-2, in an epic clincher Thursday night that stretched and strained at the limits of resolve.
Through his power and poise, Murphy orchestrated all three of his team's runs, including the go-ahead solo shot in the sixth inning off Dodgers co-ace Zack Greinke. And deGrom, with little more than grit and toughness, emerged as the winner after enduring six innings of torture.
From there, the Mets trusted rookie starter Noah Syndergaard to pitch a scoreless seventh inning. He set up closer Jeurys Familia, who Terry Collins challenged to record the final six outs. He proved up to the task.
Now, the Mets will play on, reaching the National League Championship Series. They face the resurgent Cubs, who after five score and seven years of championship futility, hope to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945.
Matt Harvey will oppose Jon Lester in Game 1 of the NLCS tomorrow night at Citi Field.
In a champagne-soaked clubhosue afterward, Murphy reflected on the Mets' dramatic win.
"That was as impressive a start for Jake than the first night because he could've let it get away from him," said Murphy, who had three homers in the series -- one off Greinke and two off Clayton Kershaw. "He bears down, ends up going six. Worked in and out of situations all night. Hands it over to Noah, who was throwing a thousand. Then Jeurys getting six-out save . . . it was awesome."
Game 5 was supposed to be a pitcher's duel, a dream matchup of the upstart deGrom and the established Greinke. It was to be a display of precision. But what unfolded at Chavez Ravine looked and felt like an alley fight.
Twice, Collins would have been perfectly justified to pull the rip cord on deGrom. He had made a mess of the first inning, when he allowed four straight hits. Two of them came from Justin Turner and Andre Ethier, each good enough to score runs for a 2-1 lead.
For the next five innings, deGrom walked a tightrope. Every inning, the Dodgers offered a forceful nudge, a walk here, a hit there. Without his trademark fastball command, the pitcher could only hope to survive.
The night before, Collins even joked about the thought of deGrom finding trouble, saying that such a scenario "would be a shock to me." Yet the nightmare unfolded as he had unwittingly predicted.
When his spot came up in the second, deGrom hit for himself. In the third, with deGrom again on the ropes, Collins visited the mound with runners on the corners and one out.
Collins had Syndergaard warming for the second time. But the manager watched deGrom get a double-play grounder that he started. With the season on the line, Collins put the fate of the team in deGrom's hands.
He was rewarded.
General manager Sandy Alderson, who was doused by players with champagne, said of his manager: "Terry did a masterful job tonight."
When deGrom departed after holding the Dodgers to two runs over six innings, he did so with the lead. For that, he could thank Murphy.
Yes, the Mets scored three times against Greinke.
The Mets scored first thanks to a challenge. Umpires had initially ruled Curtis Granderson's slow roller an out. But video showed he had beaten out the throw. Two batters later, he scored on Murphy's double.
Murphy turned to improvisation to position himself as the tying run in the fourth. He started the threat with a single, then moved to second on Lucas Duda's one-out walk. But on the way, he noticed that third base was left uncovered by Turner, who had swung around on an extreme shift. Murphy bolted for third, then scored the game-tying run on Travis d'Arnaud's sac fly in foul territory down the rightfield line.
With the score still knotted up in the sixth, Murphy turned the series on one majestic swing, a solo shot to right.
The Mets' bullpen exploded with joy, the menacing chill of winter suddenly replaced by the warmth of another day.