CHICAGO -- Seeking a spark that would nudge him out of a postseason funk that, through eight games, had featured more strikeouts than total bases, Lucas Duda turned to Daniel Murphy.
And why not? Duda had watched his teammate morph into one of the best postseason hitters of all time over the last two weeks and was hopeful some of that offensive magic could transfer to him. He used his bat as the conduit.
"I try to rub my bats on him as much as I can," Duda admitted, shortly after the Mets clinched their first World Series berth in 15 years. "I really do."
Whatever Duda did, it worked, as his five-RBI night propelled the Mets to an 8-3 victory that swept the Cubs out of the National League Championship Series. Duda's breakout night came quickly, too, with a first-inning three-run home run and a second-inning two-run double keying a quick six-run lead for the Mets.
The performance was a record-reaching one, as Duda tied a Mets record for most RBIs in a postseason game. Doing it before him had been Curtis Granderson (NL Division Series Game 3, 2015), Carlos Delgado (NLCS, 2006), Edgardo Alfonzo (NLDS, 1999) and Rusty Staub (World Series, 1973).
"As I've said all postseason, it's not about personal stats; it's about winning when you get to this part of the season," Duda said amid the team's champagne celebration. "I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute today, and I'm happy we got the win."
Duda hasn't had much to celebrate individually during the Mets' dismissal of the Dodgers and the Cubs. He entered Wednesday 3-for-24 this postseason with 13 strikeouts and nary an extra-base hit. It was hardly the production the Mets had hoped out of the first baseman who had led the club in homers (27), RBIs (73) and slugging percentage (.486) during the regular season.
Still, manager Terry Collins never seriously considered a lineup change. He's seen enough of the often streaky Duda to know that while the bad can be really bad, so, too, can the good be game-changing. He didn't want to rob his club of the potential for Duda to star on any given night.
"Once in a while, you show players you've got confidence in them," Collins said. "I thought I did that with Lucas, knowing that if he breaks out, he can carry us. And tonight, he broke out.
Duda delivered a back-breaking, three-run blast in the first inning to suck some life out of an already-anxious Wrigley Field crowd. It marked the fifth straight game in which the Mets had scored in the opening inning, and New York held a 4-0 lead by the end of it.
A leadoff single by Granderson and a two-out walk to Yoenis Cespedes brought the inning to Duda, who laid off a borderline 2-2 pitch to extend the at-bat against Cubs starter Jason Hammel to seven pitches.
"I felt like it was a strike, but sometimes you don't get the call," Hammel later lamented. "I went back and looked [at the TBS replay], and they had it outside the zone. I'm not going to complain. I executed the pitch, and the mistake can't happen after that."
That mistake -- a 94-mph fastball that stayed over the plate -- was clobbered into the center-field bleachers by Duda. Statcast™ projected the home run to land 420 feet away with an exit velocity of 107 mph. For context, Duda had put just one ball in play this postseason with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. That was a lineout off Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 of the NL Division Series.
"He was tough. He has great stuff," Duda said of Hammel. "I was just fortunate enough to get a pitch up in the zone and get a good swing on it."
Duda followed that with a two-run double the next inning to give him his second five-RBI game of the year, the first coming against the Reds on Sept. 25. He reached base another two times before the corks started popping in the visitors' clubhouse.
In addition to tying a franchise record, Duda, with his five RBIs, also matched Carlos Beltran, Fred McGriff, Pedro Guerrero and Johnny Bench for the most all time by an NL player in a potential clinch game.
"It's not about personal accomplishments or feeling sorry for yourself when you're not doing well," Duda said. "It's not about that. It's about winning, and it's turned out pretty well so far. I'm happy to be a part of it. I'm happy to be here. We're going to the World Series. It's a pretty surreal thing."