Following a game 1 loss to the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs look to even the NLCS at two and will need a strong start by Jake Arrieta.
By William Chase
Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets featured a dominating performance by Matt Harvey, silencing the Cubs’ bats most of the night. Though there seemed to be cracks in Harvey’s armor at times – most notably the 5th and 7th innings – The Dark Knight always seemed able to reach back for at least one more pitch to get out of a jam.
Cubs ace Jon Lester was very good, but like his first postseason start against the St. Louis Cardinals, allowed a first-inning run before settling down. Though Lester was very critical of his own performance after the game, it was the Cubs offense that couldn’t come through, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN.
Anthony Rizzo – 30 hit by pitches in the regular season – appropriately started the Cubs offensive rally when he took a pitch by Harvey in the arm in the fifth inning. Following a Castro double which allowed Rizzo to score, the Cubs were suddenly in business but a costly decision to send Castro home on a Báez single proved costly as Castro was out by a mile.
Despite Ron Darling’s assessment during the broadcast that sending Castro was wise due to not knowing how many opportunities you might have against Harvey, I instead would have liked for Castro to stay at third. Runs coming at a premium as they are, you can’t give away outs in the postseason.
Going into Game 2 the Cubs feel good, and why shouldn’t they? They’ve been here before, the aforementioned NLDS Game 1 loss and Game 2 win aside, the Cubs point to Jake Arrieta who will try to pitch more like the ace we grew accustomed to August on, as opposed to how he fared in NLDS Game 3.
Coming into this Game 3 with extra rest, this will undoubtedly be Arrieta’s biggest start of the season, let alone his career. The Cubs will try to even the series against rookie Noah Snydergaard, and though they only scored twice last night off Harvey, the chances were aplenty.
Lots of balls were hit hard, but at somebody. If Castro is still at third, he scores on the eventual error by Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud that allowed Báez to get to third.
In the 7th inning the Cubs again threatened, but Harvey – who hit by a liner in the 6th by Fowler and still managed to get the ball to 1st for the out – was always able to reach back and dial up a key strikeout.
If any of the aforementioned hard outs, the decision to send Castro doesn’t happen and even the liner off Harvey getting away from him, we could have had a very different ballgame.
Harvey was dominant, but the Cubs had their chances. So it’s off to Game 2.
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 18, 2015
The Cubs lead baseball throughout the regular season with 1,518 strikeouts as an offense, while walking the second-most of any team (567). Though the Cubs have a propensity to strike out, Dexter Fowler and the lineup on down have the ability to take their pitches and work counts. Kris Bryant, in particular, can turn an 0-2 count full.
The Mets, on the other hand, will feel confident with Snydergaard, who was 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA versus the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series. He lost his first career start versus Chicago in May, but like the Mets as a team has completely transformed since then. His Citi Field stats are comforting for the Mets (7-2, 2.46 ERA).
Both lineups are capable of producing offensive damage, but the two who have been on an absolute tear and worth watching are Kyle Schwarber for Chicago and Daniel Murphy for the Mets. Schwarber hit his forth postseason home run, a rookie record for the Cubs and also joins Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Rameriz, both belting four in the 2003 playoffs for the Cubs.
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 18, 2015
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 18, 2015
Murphy has been on a torrid pace for New York: 320 BA, 4 HR, 6 RBI and 1.160 OPS. The Cubs as a team lead the Mets in batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. In fact they’re first among all playoff teams in three of those categories.
There’s no question why the Cubs feel as confident as they do, however, this series going in was centered around the Mets’ young pitching against the Cubs young hitting. Game 2 is centered around Jake Arrieta reclaiming his groove and sending this series back to Chicago tied.
For the Mets, to be able to send this series back to Chicago up two games would be huge with Jacob deGrom set to go, most likely for Game 3 Tuesday night.