Cold? What cold?
The Mets kept a little California sunshine in their pocket from their recent successful business trip to the West Coast as they faced the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLCS. It was a like warm sunny day as the home team touched perennial All Star Jon Lester for eight hits and four runs, with home runs by Daniel Murphy (what? again?) and Travis d’Arnaud (yes, again) in the 4-2 triumph.
The arctic conditions didn’t appear to affect Mets Ace Matt Harvey for the first four innings as he sat down the first dozen frozen Cubbies in succession, while the Mets grabbed a 1-0 lead, thanks to super-hot Murphy and his fourth postseason home run in the first inning.
Then the Cubbies remembered where they’re from – the Windy City – and tattered Harvey in the fifth with two hits and a run to tie the game. The damage would have been greater had it not been for another superb throw from Yoenis Cespedes to nail Starlin Castro at the plate when Javier Baez singled to left.
It really was cold on the field at game time. With temperatures in the 40s, with a “feels like” temperature of maybe 20-something, and a swirling wind to keep the fielders on their toes, it was more football weather than the baseball norm. Nonetheless, both starters toughed it out for six plus until Lester ran into trouble in the seventh and was removed after 107 pitches (65 strikes).
Harvey lasted until giving up a home run to Kyle Schwarber with two outs in the eighth and 97 pitches (64 strikes). He left with the lead, and to boisterous chants of “Har-vey” throughout the ballpark. Jeurys Familia was summoned for the four-out save,
For the night, Harvey yielded two runs and four hits, with one intentional walk and nine strikeouts.
In the postgame presser, Mets manager Terry Collins defined what it took for Harvey to enjoy a remarkable outing.
“I think what we talked about earlier today and going into this game was to try and get him some consistency and a routine, and the result is better command of his stuff. You saw it tonight. He had better command. His changeup was outstanding early. He threw some good curveballs early. On a night like this, you’re not going to have your real good fastball. The weather just isn’t conducive to it.”
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was also complimentary of Harvey.
“Give him credit. he was outstanding tonight. He had about as good of command as you possibly can. Therin lies the game. Because Jon pitched well, too.”
Really, Joe? Harvey didn’t give up two home runs, did he?
The crowd of 44, 287 was into it from Pitch One. It was the largest crowd Citi field had held since the All-Star Game in 2013.
With the win, would you believe the Mets improved to 28-14 at home in postseason play, and that winning percentage (.667) is the best home winning percentage of any team in the postseason. So pat yourself on the back, fans. You’ve made a difference. Murphy admitted after game 1 the team is conscious of the cheers and appreciative of the energy you bring to the ballpark.
“Yeah, (the energy) is awesome. I thought the fans were unbelievable tonight. They’ve been so the entire year. It’s nice to feed off of that. I think as a player when you’ve got 40,000 people behind you, it zeroes in your focus a little bit and helps you to focus on the task at hand.”
Harvey was pleased with his improved postseason outing.
“I think after the first go-round, I definitely wasn’t happy. Obviously we won, and that was the important thing. But I really wanted to be back out there as much as I possibly could and getting the ball the first game, I really wanted to start things off the right way and get us rolling. Fortunately enough I had things working pretty well and we were able to (win).”
Game 2 pitchers, as expected, will be Jake Arrieta and Noah Syndergaard. Both met the media prior to Game 1.
Arrieta was asked about the differences between the Mets of early July when they last met and the team he was about to face on Sunday.
“(I) still know these guys fairly well,” said the odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young (22-6, 1.77, with a no-hitter in the mix). “They have some young players who are playing really well, and throwing the ball well, too. This is kind of what you expect in a Championship Series.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. Jon’s going to be attacking those guys from the opposite side tonight. I’ll take some notes and see what I can gather.”
Thor is looking forward to his start.
“I feel like we’ve all dreamt of this moment right here, and we’re all extremely blessed to be here. We know our pitching staff is all fairly young. But that’s something we’re able to feed off of.”
The feeding starts at 8:07 Sunday night.