NLCS Update

By Jesse Grossman

Heading home down 0-2 to the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs could be in a lot of trouble. Their two best starters, Jon Lester and Jake Arietta, were defeated in both games at Citi Field and the team has already had to go deep into their bullpen. Along with all that, Mets ace Jacob DeGrom heads to the hill in game three.

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Upon the stout pitching of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jeurys pitching, as well as the bat of Daniel Murphy (10-28, 5 HRs in playoffs), the Mets took two breezy wins from the Cubbies. Mets pitching gave up a combined three runs, but the most important was a run saved by Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes who nabbed Starlin Castro at the plate in game one to keep the game tied. The next inning, the Mets took the lead on a Curtis Granderson single. This is a perfect example of how the series has gone so far. Cubs third base coach Gary Jones seemed to not know the scouting report on Cespedes’ cannon arm and the Cubs were not able to capitalize on the opportunity to take the lead. Then, the Mets did exactly what the Cubs could not do because three hits later, the Mets had the lead back and would not relinquish it.

In game two, the Mets took the lead in the first inning on a David Wright double, only his second hit of the postseason, and yet another Daniel Murphy home run. Once again, the Mets had the lead and would not let it go. Noah Syndergaard stifled the Cubs for five and two thirds innings with nine strikeouts, only allowing one run. From there, the Mets bullpen brought it home. Jon Niese came in for an out, pointing to the sky for his grandmother who passed away on Friday, and then the Mets utilized their 7th/8th/9th inning trifecta of Addison Reed-Tyler Clippard-Jeurys Familia to close out the game.

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The Cubs cannot and should not feel confident coming back home to Wrigley Field. Their ace and Cy Young candidate, Jake Arietta, did not bring the goods in his game two start. Arietta was the Cubs only hope to keep them in the series because the Cubs’ hot bats have cooled off with the weather. In games three and four, manager Joe Maddon will throw Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel who combined for seven and two thirds innings in the NLDS against the Cardinals. To make matters worse, Maddon had to delve into his bullpen Sunday after Arietta could only get through five innings. The Cubs’ hitting, their best skill, has been smothered through the first two games and now have to face the hottest pitcher in the playoffs, Jacob DeGrom. Degrom has only given up three runs in thirteen innings to go along with twenty strikeouts.

For the Cubs to come back in this series, they are going to need pitching gems from Hendricks and Hammel. If Hendricks can not get it done in game three, I would expect Maddon to bring Lester back to pitch game four on short rest. The Mets simply need DeGrom to keep doing his thing. They should not have trouble with either Cub starter and will not have issues with the weather (games three and four should be played in 60-degree weather). However, the Cubs fans will certainly be rowdy for their first NCLS game since they were dropped by the Florida Marlins in the Steve Bartman series in 2003.

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My prediction is the Mets will take two out of three in Chicago losing game four. They will close out the series in game five with Matt Harvey on the hill. Harvey will take home MVP honors (just ahead of Daniel Murphy) after going another seven innings and striking out eight. Lucas Duda will come back and hit a home run in one of the three games proving he is not totally useless as the Mets gear up for the World Series.

All stats courtesy of cbssports.com

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