The New York Mets, a team that nobody expected to be here, few picked when they arrived and whose previously dormant fan base has come alive in the city that never sleeps, are once again in position to defy the odds.
With an emphatic two games to none series lead over the Chicago Cubs after beating both SP Jon Lester and SP Jake Arrieta, the Mets enter Game 3 with team ace Jacob deGrom on the mound and an opportunity to push the Cubbies—a team squarely on the ropes— to the edge of elimination. By winning the first two games, the Mets have guaranteed they’ll see their fans again this season. But if New York has it their way in the Windy City, with three straight games at Wrigley Field, the next time they’ll see their fans is for a World Series game.
After the Cubs appeared to be a team of destiny for so many and for so long, Chicago’s dream is on the brink of becoming a citywide nightmare. Daniel Murphy has delivered a performance so legendary that only a borderline insane conspiracy theory can maybe help to explain it, and even then it doesn’t make sense. After hitting a career-high 14 home runs in the regular season, including just one against left-handed pitching, Murphy now has homered off of Los Angeles Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw (twice), SP Zack Greinke, Lester and Arrieta. That’s not exactly Joe, Schmo, Cleatus McGoo and Tony Bigbat toeing the slab. These are big-time pitchers—the best the game has to offer—and Murphy must need all of the UV rays at the plate since his temperature directly reflects the surface of the sun.
Mets SP Matt Harvey, well over his “prescribed” 180 innings limit, delivered the biggest start of his career in Game 1 of the NLCS. Noah Syndergaard, better known as Thor and the inspiration behind Pedro Martinez becoming a Vine legend, pitched an electric Game 2 just two days after a critical appearance out of the bullpen—his first ever—in a must-win NLDS Game 5. And now deGrom, whose name should appear on more than a handful of Cy Young ballots and who has unquestionably been the Mets’ best pitcher in 2015, is the next challenge awaiting a young Cubs team that hasn’t been able to hit the Mets’ overpowering pitching staff through the first two games of the series.
Despite returning to the comfortable confines of Wrigley Field with a rabid fan base that has been unbelievable in its support, the Cubs have to be shaken with how this series currently stands. There is no way this team could have possibly thought it would be in this position with how good Arrieta has performed and how steady Lester has been, but now Chicago faces a new reality it hasn’t previously in Joe Maddon’s magical first season.
The Mets are now two wins away from their first World Series since 2000, and their first potential World Series title since the famed 1986 season. The last time New York was in the postseason, I was finishing high school, preparing to begin college and never could have dreamed the next time I’d be watching this would be nearly a decade later. After taking down the best the Cubs have to offer on the mound, only pitchers Kyle Hendricks (Game 3) and Jason Hammel (Game 4) stand in the Mets’ way of claiming the National League crown. In a series that includes home field advantage, that’s quite the position to be in for a team that wasn’t even supposed to win its own division.
As the Mets’ young arms grow up on the game’s biggest stage, everyone is witnessing why New York has been hesitant to move any of its starting pitching. With deGrom and lefty Steven Matz (Game 4) slated to pitch the next two games, it’s become abundantly clear that New York will enter just about every contest with a matchup advantage on the mound. With pitching at a premium and the most expensive asset to purchase in free agency, the Mets have rightfully emphasized developing players at that position internally. With the plan firing on all cylinders—not unlike the Mets’ young arms all throwing more than 95 miles per hour—New York is in a spot that manager Terry Collins had previously called being in “pretty good waters.”
Should deGrom deliver another one of his trademark performances that have become an expectation in a matchup where he’ll enter as the clear favorite, the Mets will more than likely take a 3-0 lead and need to win just one of their next four games for a chance to win it all.
That is simply amazin’.