(Photo: Bill Menzel)
They have a pitcher known as “Thor” and Daniel Murphy may get that name soon after hitting his fourth consecutive postseason home run. “Thor” of course is righthander Noah Syndergaard and Murphy has become a major reason why the New York Mets are two wins away from winning their first National League pennant in nine years.
Sunday night at Citi Field the Chicago Cubs knew that Syndergaard was going to be their latest challenge, and if they had any chance of leaving New York with a split of the first two games in the NLCS they had to contend with a fastball that has been clocked at 100.
Syndergaard is known as “Thor” so the 98 clocked on his fastball, this night, was good enough. His changeup was hard to hit, and he has recorded nine strikeouts in his last four starts. Murphy, with his fifth home run of the postseason has also knocked in a run in six of the Mets seven postseason games.
There is more to the New York Mets taking this commanding 2-0 series lead as they head to Chicago for Game 3 Tuesday night. And after their 4-1 win in Game 2, which was played like a similar tune to their win in Game 1, the next time the Mets take the field at Citi Field they could be representing the National League in the World Series.
Yes the sudden emergence of Murphy as a power hitter, and the way the Mets have this young pitching rotation set, could make for a short series and no need for a sixth or seventh game at Citi Field next weekend. Don’t tell that to the Cubs who are difficult to beat at Wrigley Field, but they are aware this is not the same Mets team they defeated seven times this season.
“We’re all about one-game winning streaks,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. But the Cubs pitching, and that included potential Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, could not contain Murphy who has perfected the home run trot.
And depending on how the winds are blowing at Wrigley, Murphy could add to his potential record postseason numbers.
Maddon was optimistic, but the advantage could be a 3-0 series lead for the Mets after Tuesday.Their other young stud, Jacob deGrom will be on the mound who is throwing just as good as Syndergaard, and as hard as Matt Harvey threw in Game 1 Saturday night.
The Mets have the advantage and you don’t have to be a baseball expert to determine why. They can’t do nothing wrong, and it has a very similar look to what the San Francisco Giants did last October in their run to a World Series win. The starters are being staked to an early lead, the home run ball has become a weapon, and the bullpen finishes the job behind some good defense.
“We’ve gotten big hits,” manager Terry Collins said. “Again because of the pitching we’re facing, we’re not crushing the ball, but we’re getting big hits. We’re getting guys on base and it seems like somebody will come up with a big hit or a big play, or a stolen base when you need it.”
Collins referred to another good game from Murphy. And there was the defense of Curtis Granderson who came up with the big play in the second inning when he reached above the right field wall and took away what looked like a home run ball from Chris Coghlan.
“This is a good group,” said Murphy. “I think we’re having a whole bunch of fun right now and we’re going to enjoy this win tonight, enjoy the day off tomorrow and I’m very excited about having Jake go for Game 3 right now.”
Fun is a part of the game for the Mets, but not for the Cubs now. And it wasn’t for the Dodgers in the divisional series because they had to deal with how good the Mets pitching has been. Starters have 58 strikeouts in seven postseason games, the most among the three other teams still playing in October.
And going to Chicago with this momentum can also be attributed to the Mets handling Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, and now Arrieta, all three in the running for Cy Young Award honors.
“We’ve beaten some of the best that that the game has to offer,” said David Wright. The captain recorded just his second hit and first for extra bases in the postseason. “I’ll argue that we have the Syndergaards, the Harveys, the Matzes and the deGroms, so I like our chances when we can run those guys out there.”
Added Wright, who hit a run scoring double in the second inning,and referring to the home field advantage of the two wins, “To take care of business the first two games at home, I think it was big for us moving forward. Hopefully we can kind of keep that momentum going in Chicago.”
Matz will get the start in Game 4, He throws hard but the Cubs realize the limited starts of the rookie lefthander could give them an advantage. But first the Mets march into their ballpark with a huge momentum with deGrom on the mound.
“The organization has done a great job accumulating this talent,” Collins said about his young arms on the mound. “And we kind of feel real good when Steven Matz starts to get as consistent because he’s just as good as everybody else.”
What will happen in Chicago could determine if the Mets come home to complete the task and they don’t expect to finish the business at Citi Field, that is unless this good brand of baseball they are playing right now decides to go another way. The Mets hope that Lucas Duda, who went 0-for 3 with two strikeouts can use Wrigley Field to his advantage, and going 2-for-21 with 13 strikeouts in this postseason may force Collins to sit him down.
If Collins decides to go that route, Murphy or Michael Cuddyer would get the start at first base. But that won’t be decided until game time.
There is one other aspect to this commanding lead before heading to Chicago. The bullpen which has been the subject of much speculation, and depending on the four out save from Jeurys Familia, did not have to go that route Sunday night. Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard tossed two innings of scoreless ball.
Before that, Jonathon Niese struck out the lefty hitter Anthony Rizzo in the sixth inning, ending a Cubs threat with a runner on second. Oh, Familia did come out of the pen again and recorded his fourth save of the postseason and it had no toll.
Nothing is bothering the Mets as they flew to Chicago. As they say this has been seven games into the postseason and they are having fun. Momentum and in command will do that, but a hostile Wrigley Field crowd awaits them.
“I think for all of us the energy has been high,” Murphy said. And with two more wins that energy will carry the Mets to their first World Series appearance since 2000.
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