1908 and 1986 were the last time the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets have won a World Series title, respectively. So much history with these two franchises and just as much heartbreak. Those days are over as the two teams compete for the National League Pennant starting Saturday night at Shea Stadium.
The Cubs beat a banged up St. Louis Cardinals team in four games and will be well rested to begin the NLCS, whereas the Mets won the decisive game five against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night. The Mets used two of their starting pitchers (Jason deGrom and Noah Syndergaard) to secure the Divisional series victory, but with a deep starting rotation they are not in too much trouble.
This series has a surplus of young players. All four starting pitchers in the Mets rotation are under 27 years old, while both Syndergaard and Steven Matz made their MLB debuts this year. The Cubs on the other hand have the young hitter, lead by potential Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant and sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler.
The Cubs won all seven games this season, but that was before the Mets made some trades to upgrade their offense. The Mets were the highest scoring team in the league in the second half of the season after the acquisition of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to give the game one nod to Jon Lester since he has not pitched in over a week. Lester faced the Mets twice this season, going 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 innings. Lester’s last outing was game one of the NLDS against the Cardinals where he lasted 7.1 innings, but gave up 3 earned runs in the 4-0 loss. This is exactly why Theo Epstein gave Lester such a huge contract in the off-season and now it is time for him to deliver.
Matt Harvey will get the start to open the series for the Mets. He only faced the Cubs once this season, but he pitched well in a no decision. Harvey lasted seven innings, only giving up three hits and no runs while striking out nine.
Hitters to Watch:
The Cubs do not have a lot of history going against Harvey. Chris Coghlan has been the most productive with three hits in eight at bats, including two singles and a double. Maddon has been riding the hot bat of Jorge Soler so Coghlan might not get the start despite the good numbers against Harvey. Soler has not had a hit against Harvey in just three plate appearances.
Kyle Schwarber put on a show in the NLDS against the Cardinals. I see him being the key for the Cubs in game one of the NLCS. Schwarber is a much better hitter against righties, with a .278 BA vs .143 against lefties. But what also stands out is that he hits much better on the road than at Wrigley Field. Schwarber is batting .281 at opposing fields, whereas his batting average at home is just .196. If the Cubs can get base runners on with Schwarber batting, the Cubs could steal game one against Matt Harvey.
The Mets will need lead-off man Curtis Granderson to get on base to put the pressure on Lester. Granderson has seen Lester more than anyone else on the Mets and has held his own against the lefty hitting .273 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. It is no secret that if Granderson gets on base, he will be looking to steal against Lester who is known to have problems in that area.
David Wright has been struggling so far this postseason, but luckily the Mets have not needed his bat to win games. Wright has one hit in 16 at bats in the NLDS. That will need to change in this series. Wright has never faced Lester, but he kills left handed pitching with a career .340 BA. Wright could easily win the game for the Mets and get out of his hitting slump.