I’ll start out by saying I wish the Cubs were not playing the Mets in the NLCS, but not for the reason or reasons you may think.
Of course, I want the Mets to beat them and go on to the World Series, but if there were ever a team I’d like to see break their putrid, century-old stretch of futility, the Cubs are that team. As much as being a Mets fan has taken years off my life, I can’t imagine generations of fans — and Cubs fans are a very passionate lot — never witnessing their favorite baseball team winning a World Series, or even getting there. It’s been 70 years since they’ve appeared in the Fall Classic.
From the Billy Goat to Bartman, the Cubs have made a living by being also-rans and the poster children for sporting sympathies.
But, Theo Epstein and his staff have patiently built a nice little ballclub with young talent that can hit. It’s this group of guys and their 7-0 in-season record against the Mets that New York has to contend with. Let’s take a look at the matchup tonight.
Starting with pitching, the Mets will have Matt Harvey, well past his magical 180 inning limit (he’s at 194.1 innings) on the mound against John Lester. Harvey gave up a skinny run and struck out nine vs. the pre-Schwarber, pre-Bryant Cubs back in May. These guys, adding in Anthony Rizzo with his 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs are a formidable lot.
Jake Arrieta, the undisputed ace of the staff and a Cy Young candidate, won’t be starting this one and even got roughed up in his last outing, giving up four earned runs. Instead, Jon Lester will take the ball. The Cubs starter had a good year on the bump for the Cubbies, although I wouldn’t call it stellar. He was 11-12 with an ERA of 3.34.
This is Harvey’s moment. He has craved the spotlight, and tonight he will have it. Front and center. What he does with this moment is up to him and his reconstructed right elbow. He will be amped and will be throwing hard. He needs to reign in his emotions and pitch to his strengths. We will see if that happens.
Some lineup changes on the Mets side include sitting the Mets’ slugging first baseman Lucas Duda in favor of the aging and inconsistent Michael Cuddyer against Chicago’s southpaw. Typically I’d rail against the knee-herk, by the book lefty/righty matchup, but Duda has been lost for a while. He looks awful, and this move does give a better chance based on that alone. I will probably change my tune when Cuddyer flails at three straight pitches in the dirt, but I digress.
Now, there are some pundits from The Windy City (and some even in our city) citing the fact the Cubs won all seven games they played against the Mets. I would say that these are the new Mets. The Mets that played the Cubs earlier this season no longer exist, save for the pitching, and even those Mets are different in a short playoff series. Remember John Mayberry, Jr. hitting clean-up? I almost want to personally burn those memory brain cells from my body.
This is certainly a very visible series with a lot of drama built in before it even starts. I am betting we will be talking about it long after it ends, whatever the outcome.
Speaking of which, I pick the Mets in six games.
Let’s Go Mets!