The Chicago Cubs have yet to play a home game in the 2015 NLCS, but their time in the playoffs might be running out. They’ll host the New York Mets in Game 3 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, playing in essentially a “must-win” situation after losing two straight games at Citi Field.
It’s often said that a team can’t be counted out of a series until they’ve played at home, but the Cubs find themselves in a very difficult spot. Chicago lost the first two games of the series with their top two starting pitchers on the mound. The National League wild-card winner sends their No.3 starter to the mound in Game 3, while the Mets still have their ace waiting in the wings.
Kyle Hendricks gets the call for the Cubs on Tuesday against Jacob deGrom, who is 2-0 in the postseason. DeGrom beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in both Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLDS, allowing two runs in 13 innings, striking out 20 batters. Hendricks didn’t make it through the fifth inning of Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals, but allowing three runs in 4.2 innings was enough to help the Cubs.
New York has the clear advantage on Tuesday. DeGrom had more wins (14/8), more strikeouts (205/167) and a better ERA (2.54/3.95) than Hendricks in the regular season, making the Mets favorites on the road. Las Vegas sportsbooks are giving New York -125 betting odds to win Game 3, and Chicago is a +115 underdog, according to vegasinsider.com.
The Cubs are hoping that Hendricks pitches like he did against the Mets on June 30 when he shut out New York in six innings of work. The Mets’ roster has a collective .162 batting average against Hendricks, but no New York player has faced him more than six times. The Mets have made significant additions since they last saw Hendricks, and some players that did face him are hitting much better at the moment.
Daniel Murphy is just one-for-six against Hendricks, but he’s the hottest hitter in baseball. The Mets second baseman has hit a home run in four straight games, as well as five homers in the playoffs. Murphy has gone deep against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Facing Hendricks, who’s surrendered a .267 average to left-handers, at hitter-friendly Wrigley Field might not be what slows down New York’s No.3 hitter.
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) October 19, 2015
The Cubs’ bats were silent in two games in the cold weather at Citi Field, and they could heat up in Chicago, where it’s expected to be close to 70 degrees at first pitch. As good as deGrom has been this season two of his worst starts came against the Cubs. He surrendered seven earned runs in 10.1 innings, allowing 18 baserunners.
Kyle Schwarber hit a home run in Game 1, but that is Chicago’s only long ball of the series. The team hit 10 home runs off the Cardinals in four games, and Schwarber and Dexter Fowler both went deep in the wild-card game.
But it won’t be easy for Chicago to get their bats going against deGrom. He had dominant stuff in the NLDS opener against Los Angeles, and though he struggled at times in Game 5 against the Dodgers, he battled and defeated the NL Cy Young favorite.
DeGrom has proven to be a big game pitcher, and he should have another good start on Tuesday. Hendricks had his moments this season, but it’s unlikely that he’ll outduel New York’s top pitcher. With Murphy and Curtis Granderson swinging the bat so well in a lineup that includes Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright, New York might not have much trouble giving deGrom the support that he needs.
New York over Chicago, 5-3