Oct 17

2015 NLCS Preview: Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets

nlcs 15 cubs

The last time the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs were in our national consciousness man had just landed on the moon, our country’s cities had been burning and we were mired in Vietnam.

The Mets, in their seventh year of existence, climbed out of a huge deficit to overtake the Cubs and blitz through the postseason to win the World Series. The similarities of those teams in 1969 and those in 2015 were quite remarkable.

The 1969 Mets were built on pitching depth, as is this team. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry in the rotation and Tug McGraw in the bullpen then; Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in the rotation and Jeurys Familia in the bullpen now.

The 1969 Mets had a core of Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones, but came to life after the mid-season trade for Donn Clendenon. The 2015 Mets had its core in David Wright and Daniel Murphy, but needed the spark of Yoenis Cespedes.

The 1969 Cubs had quality pitching in Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman. Today’s Cubs will throw at you Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Both the 1969 and 2015 Cubs are power laden teams. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams then; Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber now.

The similarities are many, including the Cubs still playing in rickety old Wrigley Field and lamenting a century’s worth of bad luck.

By the way, there’s no truth to the rumor the Mets invited Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch.

jacob deGrom


After nine years of misery, these Mets are a talented bunch, with “a bright future,’’ says manager Terry Collins. However, I don’t want to hear about the future, I want to see them win now, and it is possible with that young pitching staff. While the home field will play a role, the Mets will win the NLCS because their rotation is deeper and Familia is a better closer than the Cubs’ Hector Rondon.

After Arrieta and Lester, there’s nothing frightening about Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Meanwhile, I like the Mets’ Nos. 3 and 4 starters have.

The belief here is the Mets’ pitching can hold down the Cubs’ power, while New York’s offense can better manufacture runs.

Although the Mets won Game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles, it’s always better to have the extra game at home and Game 7 at Citi Field is enticing.

The Mets also have the “it’’ factor in having overcome so much this season to return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.

The Cubs owned the Mets 7-0 in the season series, but that run can’t last forever, as can’t the prolonged slumps of Wright and Lucas Duda.

Cubs advance to NLCS Rizzo


Yes, the Mets are due, but after a century’s worth of disappointment so is Chicago. After billy goats and Bartman, this could very well be the Cubs’ year. Sooner or later it has to happen.

One bright spot if it is will be that we won’t have to hear Cubs’ fans whining anymore about being cursed.

Arrieta should be the National League’s Cy Young Award winner, and Lester has proven to be a big-game pitcher in his own right.

Speaking of having a big game mentality, as good as Mets’ manager Terry Collins has been, Chicago’s Joe Maddon might be the best big game manager in the sport.

Pitching usually trumps power, but when that power is on a roll – as are the Cubs now – it is hard to contain. Bryant and Rizzo might be the game’s best 1-2 punch, and Schwarber makes three. The Mets don’t have that kind of power.

From top to bottom, the Cubs are loaded.

I don’t believe Chicago’s regular-season success will be the deciding factor, but the Cubs can’t help but enter the series with a measure of confidence. The Cubs clinching the day before gives them added rest, and we can’t help but wonder if the Mets aren’t emotionally spent from a grueling Game 5 against the Dodgers followed by a cross-country flight.

Being fresher could enable the Cubs from stealing one of the first two games at Citi Field.

Another reason to like Chicago is deep dish pizza.

Cespedes Yoenis


Almost all season long I’ve referred to the Mets as a team of destiny. Think for a moment of all the adversity this team has endured. They started the season losing a top of the rotation starter in Wheeler, then their closer gets suspended, their third baseman and starting catcher miss over three months of the season, all the controversies and media driven drama they’ve had to deal with, and yet here they are today, four wins away from the World Series. Why will the Mets win? Because it’s written in the stars.

But on a more serious note, the Mets will win because their starting is deeper and better. Sure the Cubs have Arrieta and Lester, but deGrom and Harvey are no slouches and Syndergaard and Matz easily trump Hendricks and Hammel. It’s not even close, Mets starting pitching is deeper and better.

I keep hearing about how much power the Cubs have, and granted they have some great young hitters. But the Mets hit more homeruns and had more extra-base hits than any other team in the league from August 1 to the end of the season. They also had more multi-homer games than anyone else. Yoenis Cespedes will be a beast in the NLCS and if Daniel Murphy stays hot and David Wright and Lucas Duda decide to join the party, the Cubs have no chance.

But the biggest reason the Mets will win comes down to one man, Justin Turner… The Cubs don’t have him. Only kidding, it’s my man Jeurys Familia… He has become a weapon of mass destruction.



Wait, what? Who says the Cubs are going to win? Fine, I’ll play along.

It saddens me to say this, but the Cubs are going to win because Joe Maddon makes Terry Collins look like a mental midget. Maddon is a brilliant strategist and tactician who is always looking for that edge. And he does his homework and always shows up well prepared, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in that opposing dugout. He’s considered one of the most innovative managers in baseball, having popularized defensive shifts and making the safety squeeze a staple. His players play hard for him, and so does Collins’ but it’s all those other things that sets Maddon apart.

The Cubs will win because they have two of the best young sluggers in the league if not the game in Bryant (5.9 WAR) and Rizzo (6.2 WAR) who combined for nearly 60 homers and 200 RBIs while also stealing 30 bases between them. They have tremendous bat speed and each of them can take over a game at anytime.  Mets pitchers, beware.

murphy game 5


Daniel Murphy: The Dodgers still don’t know where he is and it cost them the series. Plus, Murphy is a lifetime .305 hitter against the Cubs, including .349 with four homers and nine RBI in Wrigley Field.

Matt Harvey: Being the Game 1 starter also puts him in line to start Game 5 and maybe Game 7. Remember, there are no restrictions. Harvey is about atonement and he wants to make up for Game 3 against the Dodgers.

David Wright: He says he’s been waiting nine long years to get back into the playoffs and his .083 average against the Dodgers was not what he or anyone else was expecting. Look for Wright to flex some muscle in this series.

Yoenis Cespedes: The most dangerous and most explosive hitter in the Mets lineup. If Cubs pitchers leave one hanging or groove one in his zone, Cespedes will make them pay for it. He could be a big threat to steal second when Lester is on the mound. Which brings us to…

Eric Young Jr. – My hunch is he makes the NLCS roster for the Mets so that they can exploit Lester and manufacture a run late in the game, especially in a tight one.

Jake Arrieta


Jake Arrieta: He struggled in his last NLDS start against St. Louis and you have to wonder if the season hasn’t taken a toll. Or he could come back with a vengeance.

Kris Bryant: He’s no Justin Turner, but he can carry a team, and he can do it for seven games. His match-ups against Harvey and deGrom could be monumental. Frightening thought: For as good as Bryant is, his numbers did not match Rizzo.

Javier Baez: As the replacement for the injured Addison Russell he’ll attract a lot of attention. The Cubs don’t lose that much defensively. but Baez is better known for his bat. He went 4-for-5 with a home run, stolen base, and three ribbies in the NLDS.

Kyle Schwarber: He only has 288 major league at-bats, but has proven he can hit in the clutch – an drive the ball into next week. He is 7-for-13 in the postseason with three homers and five RBIs.

Kyle Kendricks/Jason Hammel: There will be games not started by Arrieta or Lester, and the Cubs need to win at least one of those. Either of these two must find a way to beat the back end of the Mets’ rotation, which is much better.

John’s Prediction: I’m already on record saying I believe the Mets can get into, and win, the World Series. That means beating the Cubs in the NLCS. They’ll do it in seven games.

Joe’s Prediction: The Mets will win the NLCS in five games if Syndergaard starts Game 2, otherwise the Mets will defeat the Cubs in six games.


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Apr 27

Sluggish Mets Need Boost From Their Pitching

Dillon Gee didn’t pitch that badly last night, but the Mets’ struggling offense – five straight games of scoring three or fewer runs – brought nightmarish memories of last year’s second-half offensive drought.

The Mets made Kyle Kendrick look untouchable as they lost for the seventh time in their last ten games.

MARCUM: Makes first start today.

MARCUM: Makes first start today.

With their offense stagnant, the Mets will need a boost from their already stretched pitching staff. This afternoon they’ll ask journeyman pick-up Shaun Marcum to come up big in his first start of the season.

“I’m sure I’ll have a little bit of adrenaline, a little more than I had in the extended spring game,’’ Marcum said last night. “At the same time you got to know how to control it and use it to your advantage and know when to back off and when to add on a little bit. I’m looking forward to it and I’m definitely excited to get out there and get in situations in real games.’’

Marcum was signed to a free-agent contract in the offseason, but didn’t endear himself to manager Terry Collins when he reported to spring training in poor condition and attempted to justify matters by saying he only needed to make four exhibition starts. He didn’t even make those as he was sidelined with neck and shoulder pain.

“It’s been a while,’’ Marcum said. “Definitely looking forward to getting out there.’’

Marcum will be on a pitch count of 90, and if his command is off, he can get there by the fifth inning. If he does, the Mets would be in trouble. They could also be in trouble Sunday if Jon Niese isn’t able to make his start.

Niese took a hard-hit comebacker off his right ankle Tuesday, but said he felt fine after a light bullpen session Thursday. Yesterday he just played catch and ran in the outfield.

If Niese can’t go, he’ll be the third pitcher of the Mets’ projected five to miss a start, joining Johan Santana, whose career with the team is over, and Marcum.

Even so, the Mets remain adamant about not bringing up Zack Wheeler, whose wildness continues to be an issue. In his last two starts, Wheeler has walked nine batters over 9.1 innings.

The reports Collins is getting from Triple-A Las Vegas have not been encouraging. First, there was Wheeler’s blister problem, followed by his control. When Wheeler was optioned in spring training, he said he was told to concentrate on is his control.

However, concentrating on his control and getting command of it are two different things.

“What worries me the most is that he’s not pounding the strike zone,’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to have some strikes out of him because his stuff is going to play. If he’s in the strike zone, you’d be surprised at the outs because his stuff is just that good.’’

Then again, when he’s out of the strike zone it doesn’t matter how good his stuff is.

Apr 09

Mets Game #8 Wrap; Phillies Rock Dillon Gee

This one was over early when the Phillies scored four runs in the second and three more in the third off Dillon Gee. Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry all homered within five pitches. The game wasn’t worth watching after that explosion in the Phillies’ 8-3 rout.

ON THE MOUND: In losing his second straight start, Gee authored the worst outing by a Met starter this season. Gee threw 56 pitches, many of them hit hard, in giving up seven run on ten hits.

AT THE PLATE:  John Buck hit a two-run homer in the fourth, but that was pretty much it off Cliff Lee. Both Buck and Daniel Murphy had two hits. … Lee pitched 8.2 innings.

METS MUSINGS: Mets assistant GM John Ricco told ESPN that Buck was always considered a significant piece of the R.A. Dickey because of the Blue Jays intent to shed his $6 million salary. … With Kirk Nieuwenhuis not getting much playing time the Mets might consider recalling reserve infielder Omar Quintanilla. … Although Ike Davis did not play last night, manager Terry Collins never considered starting Lucas Duda at first base. … The Mets’ starters in Minnesota this weekend will be Jonathon Niese (against Vance Worley), Matt Harvey (no starter named yet by the Twins) and Gee (against Kevin Correla). Former Met Mike Pelfrey, started Tuesday and was rocked in Kansas City, won’t face his former team.

ON DECK: The Mets conclude this series in Philadelphia tomorrow with Jeremy Hefner against Kyle Kendrick.

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Apr 08

Mets Hit Road With Hope

Fast starts can lead to expectations. After opening the season with wins in consecutive series over San Diego and Miami, it is way to soon to consider the Mets a General Electric type behemoth.

But, there is some juice here, enough to where there is some light.

HARVEY: First up on road trip. (AP)

HARVEY: First up on road trip. (AP)

The Mets began the season with little hope of cracking last year’s 74 victories, but the first week created a sense there might be something to the summer if nothing more than another collapse in the making.

But, wouldn’t you rather have a duplicate of last season – a good start followed by a fall – rather than no season at all?

Following a baseball team is all about hope, and maybe the Mets will break your hearts again. While hoping for October is outlandish, hoping for an enjoyable summer, where meaningful games are played, could be possible.

It is hard in baseball to look at a schedule, circle a date and think, “that’s a win.’’ There are many variables in baseball that make it difficult, but looking at their upcoming 10-game road trip, it isn’t hard to fathom an opportunity to make April interesting, and with it, maybe the entire summer.

The Mets open a three-game series tonight in Philadelphia behind Matt Harvey, who every time he pitches, has his teammates believing.

“It’s exciting to see him pitch,’’ David Wright said. “He pitches with a lot of poise. We believe we can win every time he goes out there.’’

The Phillies aren’t the monster they used to be, and their starter tonight, Roy Halladay, is in decline. Philadelphia, ever grateful for the Marlins, has been slow out of the gate.

As bad as they were last year, the Mets were 10-8 against the Phillies, including 7-2 in their park. Confidence can be a fragile thing, but the Mets know they can win down there.

Following Harvey will be Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner against Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, respectively.

After Philadelphia comes Minnesota. The Twins enjoyed a strong run from 2002-2010 when they made the playoffs six times, but they’ve had two down seasons.

If the Mets should pattern themselves after any team over the past decade, they would do far worse than emulate the Twins, who have fielded fundamentally strong teams with good pitching while on a limited budget.

The probable for Minnesota are: Jon Niese, Aaron Laffey and Harvey.

The Mets conclude their trip with four games in Colorado, which is three years removed from the playoffs and five from the World Series.

The Mets haven’t enjoyed much success against the Rockies, but their park is one where pretty much anything can happen.

As of now, Gee, Hefner, Niese and Laffey will start against the Rockies.

By no means is this an easy stretch, but coming home even or 6-4 is doable, before series against Washington, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Circle your calendar: April 19 at Citi Field, Harvey against Stephen Strasburg.

ON DECK: Making a case for Mike Baxter leading off.

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