I have to admit, I'm a pretty big fan of Chicago. It's a great sports town and is a little more laid back than New York. Deep dish pizza is awesome, there isn't a better improv comedy scene in the country, and the people really know how to hate the Cardinals. The only downside is that the lighting at Wrigley Field isn't great, which will probably make watching these next three games on television not as fun as being in the historic ballpark, where it's not supposed to be nearly as chilly as it was in Queens on Sunday night.
Yes, opposing players may complain about how Wrigley is a dump, but for baseball fans, it's heaven (unless you're stuck behind a pole). The atmosphere is going to be awesome for Game 3, and that makes Wrigley one park that it's a lot of fun just to hang out outside of. There are dozens of bars and thousands of fans, some of whom are dressed up in bear costumes. The neighborhood outside the stadium is going to be super crowded tonight, but it's probably going to be more pleasant than waiting in line to pay stadium prices for beer at McFadden's.
At least that's what I imagine it's going to be like. Hopefully Cubs fans are just as friendly to Mets fans as the Queens faithful were to this guy, a Cubs fan who had a great time at Citi Field. Maybe we should root against that, though, because it will probably mean Chicago is winning.
Can the Mets crush another non-elite pitcher?
One of the reasons the Mets advanced through the NLDS was their ability to take advantage when Los Angeles used its one non-ace in Game 3. After grinding out one win in two games versus Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, facing Brett Anderson seemed to be a piece of cake for the Mets, who scored 10 runs in the first four innings. The rally was punctuated by a Yoenis Cespedes blast that left the park before his bat hit the ground in slow-motion.
The Mets are on the road for this Game 3, but they'll once again have a clear pitching advantage as Jacob deGrom takes the hill opposite Kyle Hendricks. Anything can happen in one baseball game, but on paper, the 25-year-old Hendricks is someone the Mets can take advantage of. He doesn't throw too hard (89 mph fastball) and gives up a lot of home runs to left-handed hitting. Unfortunately, the Mets were unable to do anything against Hendricks when they faced him at home back on June 30 (a 1-0 Chicago win), but New York's lineup in that game featured Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, and Kevin Plawecki instead of Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Travis d'Arnaud.
Even with Lucas Duda mired in a slump, the Mets still have the left-handed bats necessary to give Hendricks a hard time. The two hottest hitters on the team are Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy, both left-handed sluggers. The former hasn't been hitting for a ton of power in the postseason, but we know the latter has, and that is going a long way to change fans' perception of him.
Murphy is playing his way into the hearts of Mets fans
Before October started, I didn't feel like Murphy worth bringing back in 2016 due to his age and defensive ability, as well as New York's depth of second base possibilities. After his incredible run of four home runs in four games, I feel the same way, but I'm also getting the feeling that most Mets fans want Murphy back. Even before this recent stretch of greatness, comments like the ones Gary Cohen made about Murphy were met with disbelief, which seems absurd, given the clear weaknesses in his game.
Yes, this is more of a discussions for the offseason, and yes, "net negative" is a bit strong given the season Murphy has had at the plate, but I'm bringing up the topic now because we're watching the tide change before out eyes. If Murphy continues to hit for power and lead the Mets to a championship, it could significantly alter the future of the franchise as well as the present.
Can deGrom dominate again?
Would you say that deGrom's performance in last week's NLDS Game 5 was more gritty or gutty? That was the only thing up for debate as fans and analysts alike tripped over themselves to praise an outing that saw New York's ace get all the right outs in all the right places. There is something to be said about how the way deGrom battled in that game despite not having his best stuff, but the Mets were still one well-placed ground ball away from going home. Against the Cubs tonight, we'll be better off if deGrom allows his opponent as few chances as possible to blow the game open.
If the right-hander pitches the way he did in the three starts before Game 5 (29 strikeouts and three walks in 17 innings), the Mets could be on their way to a three-game advantage in this series.
Will Niese be the first lefty out of the bullpen?
The Cubs didn't score much in Game 1 and Game 2, but we still saw why the Mets added another lefty to the bullpen for the NLCS. Kyle Schwarber is a beast whom the Mets have refused to throw a fastball to, lest he hit it out of the park, while Anthony Rizzo stands so far over the plate that it's almost impossible for right-handers to pitch him inside. Sean Gilmartin was a perfectly reasonable addition to the relief corps, but he didn't enter the game when Rizzo came to the plate in Game 2 as Noah Syndergaard was struggling to get through the lineup a third time.
Niese came out of the pen instead. I thought this was interesting, because I saw Niese as more of a long-relief guy who could pitch multiple innings at a time and give the Mets a chance to come back if a starter didn't have his best stuff. He might still fill that role in this series, but on Sunday Niese was used to get one out and one out only. It's an interesting choice considering that lefties have a .779 OPS versus Niese this season, but it worked out with Rizzo going down on strikes. If I was managing, I'd trust Gilmartin more in that spot, but it's hard to argue with the buttons that Terry Collins has been pushing lately.
Prediction: Cubs win.