With the division championship on the line, Heddo stepped up to the plate, looking to tie the game up for the Mets with nobody on and two outs. Already homering off of Rowengartner early in the season, Heddo was confident he could do it again only because Rowengartner didn’t have his best stuff. With an 0-2 changeup, Rowengartner struck out Heddo and the Cubs clinched the division. This was the biggest series between the Cubs vs the Mets, up until the 2015 NLCS which is set to take begin tomorrow night. As most baseball fans should know, the above series happened in the the 1993 movie Rookie of the Year, but never happened in real life. This is the first time the Cubs and Mets have played in the playoffs, making them the third straight team that the Cubs haven’t seen in postseason play since their franchise began. Game 1 is tomorrow night, with the first pitch being at 7:07 P.M CT.

This series features young, talented arms on the Mets against a young, fearless group of Cub hitters on the Cubs. But don’t sleep on the Mets offense or on the Cubs pitching. In the second half of 2015, the Mets offense lead the way hitting 102 home runs, with a .257 batting average, .328 OPB and 16.9 WAR. The Cubs sat right behind them, slugging 94 home runs, with a .250 batting average, .328 OPB, and 16.9 WAR. Getting a alot of help from Jake Arrieta’s historic second half run, the Cubs starting pitching had a 3.29 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 9.1 WAR, while the Mets hurlers settled for a 3.47 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and a 7.2 WAR. We are set up for a great series, one that could either feature a ton of offense, or a few games ending 2-1 or 1-0.

Throw out the regular season series

Cubs fans have been excited about facing the Mets, mostly because the Cubs swept the regular season series, going 7-0. But both the Cubs and Joe Maddon know that doesn’t matter, as they faced a completely different Mets lineup back in July, one that didn’t have David Wright or Yoenis Cespedes. Ever  since the aquisition, which took place right at the trade deadline, the Mets offense has become a juggernaut. Although the Cubs have most of the team that was on the field for the season sweep vs the Mets, most know that this Cubs team has transformed as well. They sweep of the Mets came before the Cubs went on a terrific second half run, one what watched Jake Arrieta break history by posting a .80 second half ERA, along with a .39 in September. It came before the Cubs brought Kyle Schwarber up for good, who is the man who crushed a ball on top of the right field scoreboard in the Cubs 6-4 series clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals. That was also Schwarbers 19th career home run in only his 74th career game. Both teams since know that regular season series means absolutely nothing with Joe Maddon even coming out and saying he “puts zero stock on the regular season series.”

The real reason Cubs fans should be excited by this series is the Mets starting pitching. As talented as they are, the Mets starting pitching relies heavily on their fastball, 4th most in all of baseball. How does that help the Cubs? The Cubs hit the fastball almost as good if not better than any other team in the league. Kris Bryant, the Cubs 3 hitter, hit .330 with a .617 slugging percentage in at bats ending in a 94 mph+ fastball, including taking a 3-2 fastball up over the plate from Michael Wacha and depositing in the left field bleachers to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead in Game 3 of the NLDS . Anthony Rizzo, and Dexter Fowler also have a couple hits on fastballs 94+ mph, including a couple home runs this postseason. Another one of the Cubs player who has emerged as a threat this postseason is OF Jorge Soler, who also loves hitting fastballs owning a 13.2 runs above average on the pitch, including hitting a 90 mph first pitch fastball from St. Louis reliever Adam Wainwright for a 2 run homer in Game 3 of the NLDS. The Cubs, who were second among all teams in the second half in home runs hitting 94, scored 15 of their 20 runs in the NLDS via the home run and don’t look to change that approach anytime soon.

The Cubs have already planned to throw four different pitchers in each of the first four games, announcing Jon Lester will take the ball in Game 1 and Jake Arrieta in Game 2. They haven’t announced who will take the ball in Game 3, but we can only assume it’ll be Kyle Hendricks and then Jason Hammel will follow him in Game 4. In terms of roster moves, the only thing the Cubs have changed with their NLDS roster to their NLCS roster is that Quintin Berry is replacing the injured Addison Russell. Russell, who had been the teams starting shortstop since the beginning of August, injured his left hamstring in Game 3 of the NLDS turning a double into a triple, and has been ruled out for the entirety of the NLCS. Javier Baez will replace Russell as the starting shortstop, as he did in the remainder of Game 3 and the entirety of Game 4, going 4-5 with 3 RBI’s while doing so.

Game 1: Jon Lester vs Matt Harvey: Citi Field @ 7:07 PM CT

Game 1 features a playoff tested Jon Lester dueling against Matt Harvey. Lester and Harvey didn’t face each other during the regular season, but both pitched well against their opponents. Lester, pitched 6 innings of 3 run ball back on May 11th, beating Jacob deGrom in that outing and then pitched 7 innings of shutout ball on July 1st, Lester earning the no-decision as the Cubs won it in 11. Harvey only made 1 appearance against the Cubs this season back on May 13th, pitching 7 innings of 3 hit shutout ball, before the Cubs eventually walked off in the bottom of the 9th. In that outing Harvey wracked up 9 strikeouts, mostly due to his curveball. Expect Cubs hitters to attack Harvey like they did Lackey, jumping on 1st pitch fastballs which is how they scored all 4 runs off of him. Lester looked great in his 2 outings against the Mets although this is not that same lineup. With the addition of Cespedes and Wright, the Mets add more protection to their line up, although in their careers against Lester they combine for a .133 batting average, with Cespedes owning most of those at-bats going 2-13. My Cubs lineup for game 1 is expected to be Fowler 8/Soler 9/ Bryant 5/ Rizzo 3/ Castro 4/ Schwarber 7/ Baez 6/ Ross 2/ Lester 1. With the Mets being a fastball heavy rotation, expect the Cubs line up to remain consistent, only changing when Lester isn’t pitching as Montero will catch those games.

Game 2: Jake Arrieta vs Noah Syndergaard: Citi Field @ 7:07 PM CT

Game 2 features Cy young candidate Jake Arrieta on the mound against young fire baller Noah Syndergaard. In his only NLDS start, Arrieta struggled with his command pulling his pitches and over throwing. But he didn’t post a 1.77 regular season ERA for no reason, so expect him to figure out where he was going wrong and to give the Cubs another quality start. He made 2 starts against the Mets this season, going 8 innings in each start and only allowing one run in each of those outings. In Arrieta’s first start against the Mets this year, he through 8 innings of one run ball, facing the minimum through 7 and strijing out 10 batters. The Cubs beat the Mets 6-1 in that game, which also happened to be Noah Syndergaard’s MLB debut and only start against the Cubs this year. Syndergaard pitched 5 1/3 innings, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the third and stranding a few runners in the 4th before the Cubs got to him in the 5th. Jorge Soler started the inning with a leadoff single, scoring on Starlin Castro’s double. 4 pitches later Chris Coghlan took a 96 MPH fastball down the middle of the plate and deposited it into the left field stands for a 2 run home run, extending the Cubs lead to 3-0. Although he gave up three runs, the rookie showed signs of potential and as Joe Maddon said he was “as advertised.” In Arrieta’s other start against New York, Arrieta once again dominated Met bats going 8 innings only allowing 1 run and striking out 7 hitters. Once again, expect the Cubs to maintain the same lineup as Game 1, switching out Montero for Ross. Syndergaard is another Mets pitcher who heavily relies on his fastball, but did show signs of a curveball in his outing against the Cubs.

Game 3: Jacob deGrom vs Kyle Hendricks: Wrigley Field @ 7:07 PM CT

In Game 3, the series returns back to Wrigley Field featuring another Cy young candidate Jacob deGrom squaring up against Kyle Hendricks. deGrom is the only Mets pitcher that the Cubs have seen mutiple times his season, as he is 0-2 with a 6.96 ErA. In his first outing, he faced Jon Lester going 5 and 1/3 innings while giving up 4 runs. As stated before, deGrom is another Mets pitcher who relies heavily on his fastball and that’s exactly how the Cubs attacked him in that game. Dexter Fowler got on to lead off the game, and Kris Bryant followed hitting a 2-1 94 MPH fastball and depositing it way up in the newly renovated left field bleachers. 1 pitch later, Anthony Rizzo followed with a home run out into the right field bleachers, hitting a 94 MPH 1st pitch fastball. deGrom’s only other outing came on July 1st when he faced Jake Arrieta, again allowing 4 runs including a home run to Jonathon Herrera who isn’t on the current NLCS roster. Once again, a Cubs hitter jumped on a fastball, as Herrera took a 3-2 95 MPH fastball and put it in the right field stands. Anthony Rizzo contributed to the scoring with a bloop single scoring Starlin Casrto, who had reached on an error by Daniel Murphy. Kyle Hendricks only pitched once against the Mets, going 6 scoreless back on June 30th, including 6 strikeouts. Once again this is a different Mets lineup so you can’t really take much away from that game. Another huge factor in this game could be the weather. In the Cubs 2 NLDS wins at Wrigley, the Cubs homered 9 times, including 6 in one game, 3 of which came off of Michael Wacha who like deGrom is more of a flyball pitcher owning a 32.8 FB%. With as lopsided of a pitching matchup as this is, the Cubs being able to handle fastball pitchers really well and wind possibly being a factor, the Cubs could definitely take this game from the Mets.

Game 4: Steven Matz vs Jason Hammel: Wrigley Field @ 7:07 PM CT

The Cubs don’t have a whole lot of experience against Steven Matz as he was out for most of the year with an arm injury, just returning right before the postseason. Matz, like deGrom, Syndergaard, and Harvey features heavy usage of his fastball, using it 69% of the time, while also bringing in a curveball 20% of the time. He is a pitcher like Wacha, when if he is struggling with his fastball command, he will try to get you with a curveball which Cubs hitters can exploit like they did in Game 3 against Wacha. Jason Hammel started one game against the Mets this year, going 8 innings and only giving up 1 run. In that outing he struck out 6 Mets batters while scattering 5 hits and only walking 1. Matz, like deGrom, is another pitcher who features a high FB% coming in at 33.7% and also giving medium to hard contact 80% of the time, so look for wind to be a factor in this game as well, if indeed its blowing out. If Hammel can go out and produce another quality start like he fif back on May 13th, the Cubs could easily steal this game which could possibly be the series clincher.

I only previewed the first 4 games of the series because those are the only ones that you have a good idea on who will be the starting pitcher for that day. Games 5-7 will solely be determined by who is up or down in the series and who has a chance to clinch or possibly be eliminated. My prediction for this years NLCS is the Cubs to win in 5 games. The Cubs offense has just been too hot lately and has the ability to put runs on the board in a heart beat, especially against a fastball heavy Mets pitching rotation. The Mets bullpen is shaky up until Famila so even if the Cubs get down early, they are a team that is known for getting to bullpens early so they could easily comeback. The Cubs take the advantage in bench depth, although they lost starting shortstop Addison Russell who is a loss more for his defense than his offense. The Mets also lost their starting shortstop Ruban Tejada on a take out slide in game 2 of the NLDS, as he is out for the remainder of the postseason. As showed in games 2-4 of the NLDS, the Cubs bullpen is up to the task of pitching in the postseason, led by Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill and anchored by 8th and 9th inning studs Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon. Most likely you’ll see the bullpen more in games 3 and 4, due to the fact that Maddon will try and let Lester and Arrieta go as long as they can. Buckle up Cubs fans, this is going to be one hell of a series, that could lead the Cubs to their first World Series berth since 1945.

 

 

 

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