The Chicago Cubs and New York Mets have been two of the most tortured franchises in all of sports, but one of them is guaranteed to reach the 2015 World Series. They’ll meet in the National League Championship Series with Game 1 set for Saturday night at Citi Field.
It’s been 70 long years since the Cubs reached the World Series, and they famously haven’t won a championship since 1908. New York made an appearance in the Fall Classic 15 years ago, but their 1986 title was their last and only second championship ever. The two teams put up nearly identical numbers this season, and it’s essentially a toss-up, on paper.
The Cubs and Mets had the same team batting average during the regular season, and they were separated by just six runs and six home runs. New York has the slight edge in pitching, but the overall difference in their team ERA is minuscule.
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) October 16, 2015
With the way both series ended, neither team will start the NLCS with their ace on the hill. It’s Jon Lester’s turn in the rotation, and he’ll get the call over Jake Arrieta, who allowed four runs in his Game 3 start and has already thrown 87 innings more than last year. Mets ace Jacob deGrom got the win in Game 5, and Noah Syndergaard pitched an inning of relief on Thursday, so it’s Matt Harvey who starts for New York on Saturday.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he doesn’t expect Lester or Arrieta to pitch on three days’ rest, setting them up to start Game 1-2 and Game 5-6. The Mets will likely go Harvey-Syndergaard-deGrom, giving their top starter the chance to potentially pitch in Game 7.
For much of the season, the talk surrounding the Mets has been about their young starting pitching. DeGrom pitched even better than he did in last year’s Rookie of the Year campaign, and Harvey had a 2.71 ERA at 26 years old. Syndergaard and Steven Matz both started in the NLDS at 23 and 24 years old, respectively. The series could come down to how New York’s young starters perform against Chicago’s young bats.
The Cubs homered 10 times in their four-game series, including nine home runs from players 26 years old or younger. Including Chicago's win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild-Card Game, rookie Kyle Schwarber is hitting .538 with three home runs, and Jorge Soler has a 2.341 OPS in 13 plate appearances. All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant got off to slow starts, but they’ve combined to go six –for-17 with three home runs in the last two games.
The Cubs might also have the best starting pitcher in the series. Before giving up four runs in Game 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals, Arrieta had allowed just four earned runs in his previous 12 starts. Having beaten MLB’s best regular-season team with a power-hitting lineup and a nearly unhittable ace, Chicago is favored by Las Vegas sportsbooks to win the NLCS.
World Series odds Blue Jays 7/4 Cubs 9/4 Royals 3/1 Mets 4/1 LCS series prices Blue Jays -130 Royals +110 Cubs -150 Mets +130
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) October 16, 2015
The Mets only batted .208 in the NLDS, but they got timely hitting, and the lineup should be better against Chicago. They accomplished no small feat in beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have one of the best one-two punches in the rotation in MLB history.
Because of trades, returns from the disabled list and minor-league call-ups, New York had the NL’s best offense in the second half of the season. In their final 73 games, New York scored 55 percent of their runs and hit 58 percent of their home runs, leading the NL comfortably in both categories.
Chicago dominated New York in the regular season, outscoring the Mets 27-11 and winning all seven head-to-head matchups. But the Mets are a different team than the one that last faced the Cubs before the Fourth of July. Chicago will now have to deal with the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright and Michael Conforto, which should result in a highly competitive series.
If Chicago continues to hit like they did against St. Louis, they’ll advance to the World Series. But the team will need big games from Arrieta and Lester, since their bats are bound to cool down against New York. The Cubs had a .506 slugging percentage against the Cardinals, and that number will drop against a rotation that consists of four pitchers who can throw a gem on any given day. The likes of Cespedes, Wright, Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson give the Mets a lineup that can score runs against good pitching, and the backend of their bullpen is solid. With home-field advantage and Syndergaard and deGrom set to potentially pitch the final two games of the series, the Mets are in good shape if they are still alive after Game 5.
New York in seven