Matz on the Mound (New York Daily News)
Do the Mets Clinch the NLCS in Chicago on Wednesday night or will the Cubs survive to play another day? Are the Mets one victory away from booking a trip to Kansas City (or possibly Toronto) for their first World Series appearance in 15 years? Tonight the rookie Steven Matz steps up in the rotation, the latest Mets pitcher to face what has been described as a feared lineup of young Cubbie bats, yet a lineup that has scored just a total of 5 runs in three games against the New York Mets.
Game 3 Recap:
Jacob deGrom, now 3-0 this post-season, despite surrending two early solo HRs in Game 3 to Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler, continued his post-season brilliance to lead the Mets to a 5-2 victory and 3-0 lead in the NLCS. deGrom overcame the roughing up much like he did against the Dodgers in Game 5. He was not looking so deGrominant when he allowed the HR to Schwarber in a 29-pitch first inning and had a three-ball count to four of the first seven batters he faced. He regained control and pitched 7 strong and effective innings, retiring the final 11 batters he faced after Soler’s homer in the fourth evened the score at 2-2. He limited the Cubs to two runs on four hits and a walk with 100-pitches.
The Ground Rule “Wrigley Field Stuck in the Ivy” Double? Not only did the Mets have to beat the Cubs, but they also had to beat the Ivy in right field. With Cespedes on third base and two outs in the sixth, rookie Michael Conforto struck out. However, Trevor Cahill’s pitch rolled to the backstop, Conforto took first base safely, and Cespedes scored the tiebreaking run on the wild pitch. Wilmer Flores then blasted a line drive hit past Soler in right field. As Soler threw his arms up to signal the ground rule double and to prevent Conforto from scoring to go up 4-2, I thought it might be time for Major League Baseball to require the Cubs to pull down the Ivy. This is a professional baseball league, not an Ivy covered campus. On the other hand, there is something quaint and even beautiful about the Ivy, if it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game, which to Mets fans delight did not last night. According to an MLB official, the umpires had no discretion to allow Conforto to score per Wrigley Field ground rules. There was something very attractive about seeing Terry Collins getting hot and bothered and arguing with the umpires about this call even though his argument did not prevail. Seems like even Collins is getting The Fever.
After the The Amazins took the lead during the sixth inning, they never faced any credible challenge from the Cubs. In the seventh, the Mets scored again. Not the most fleet of foot, Daniel Murphy beat out an infield dribbler to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, then left fielder Kyle Schwarber dropped Cespedes’ fly ball. The Mets expanded their lead to 5-2 with a two-run seventh and that was all the scoring needed to seal the Game 3 victory.
Why the Mets Will Win Game 4 and Clinch Tonight:
- Mets Operating on All Cylinders: Pitching, Offense, and Defense, it’s all coming together at the Wright time. In this (and the NLDS) series the Mets have shown off their young arms, which have been superb squaring off against the best in the majors. While certain bats have been struggling, Murphy, Grandy and Cespedes have been carrying the team. Yet others are coming alive. In the past two games Captain David Wright has shown some life, Lucas Duda in Game 3 had a hit and sac bunt, Flores contributed with his Ground Rule Ivy Double and Conforto got on base safely on a dropped strike three. Great defensive plays have been made by almost all position players, from Cespedes and Granderson in the OF to Wright and Murphy in the IF to the pitchers. Even Harvey in Game 1 took a shot to the arm and had the wherewithal to forget the pain and get the out at first. On the other hand, the Cubs have been horrid in the field, contributing to their offensive struggles by yielding runs and hits to their opponent.
- The GOAT? Will Murphy be the Greatest of All Time, at least for the Mets in the post-season? As of last night, Murphy joined Carlos Beltran (who failed to win the NLCS with the Mets) as the only two players in major league history to homer in five straight postseason games (6 HRs in 8 total post-season games). Murphy’s solo shot against Hendricks in the third inning led the Mets to a 2-1 lead. Beltran’s five straight games with a homer came in the 2004 post-season with the Astros (8 total HRs). After that season, Beltran signed a seven-year, $119 million deal with … the Mets.
- Steven Matz is Due for His Star Turn: Twenty-four year old left hander Steven Matz has pitched in just seven big-league games, having won 6 of them. He was 4 for 4 at the plate in his major league start. His eighth start is the biggest game of his young career, and could be historic. The Long Island Matz Family will be kissing and hugging if their favorite son gets the job done, Matz will be handed the ball in Wednesday night’s NLCS Game 4 in Chicago with the opportunity to pitch his beloved childhood team into the World Series. Matz last pitched in Game 4 of the NLDS on Oct. 13 in a loss to the Dodgers and one Clayton Kershaw. He did not pitch poorly for a first post-season start on the big stage at Citi Field, allowing three earned runs on six hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked two. He starts tonight on seven days’ rest and has not pitched regularly in the majors for any two-week stretch since his major league debut at the end of June. While Matz was a question mark for the playoff roster as he missed time with a lat injury and back problem at the end of the regular season, he made the roster. He has all the goods, according to Colllins, and his team believes in him.
- The Universe Believes: What more is there to say. The Mets are playing baseball on October 21st, and if you ask any Mets fan, they will tell you that there is something special going on right now. With all of the problems in the world, fans of the Amazins have this time to forget about all of their aches and pains, the bills, the problem child and the barking dog and each night transport themselves into a few hours where all has been right, and even Wright, with the world.
How the Cubs Can Steal Game 4 from the Amazins:
- Theo Epstein & the End of the Curse: Teams that win the first three games of a best-of-seven series have won 33 of those 34 series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau research. The one exception is of course the Boston Red Sox over the Yankees in the ALCS in 2004. Who presided over the Sox that year? Unless Cubs president Theo Epstein can channel a repeat performance, the Mets will be headed for their fifth World Series trip (1969, 1973, 1986 and 2000).
- The Bats Come Alive? Cubs fans have been anxiously awaiting their young bats to come alive. Is tonight the night? Will the sullen fan faces suddenly turn to smiles?
- Hammel to the Rescue? Jason Hammel, like Kyle Hendricks, will have to pitch the game of his life. Rather than going to Lester on short rest, Maddon is sticking to plan and bringing out a decent major league pitcher as his 4th starter rather than one of his aces. Will this be enough?
My Prediction: Mets Sweep behind great offensive production and another Murphy Blast among others. The Cubs bats may come alive against Matz but the Mets will prevail, 8-4.