We conclude our series revisiting every time the Mets played in the National League Championship Series with their most recent appearance in 2015, which saw the Mets dominate the Cubs in a four-game sweep. While the Mets had home field in the series against the Wild Card-winning Cubs, it’s easy to forget that Chicago were the heavy favorites after winning 97 games that year. Despite their impressive record, they still finished in third place in the NL Central before toppling the Pirates in the Wild Card game and the Cardinals in the NLDS. The Mets, meanwhile, were coming off a hard-fought five-gave win over the Dodgers, in no small part due to Jacob deGrom’s brilliant performance.
The matchup was billed as a battle between two iconic but woebegone MLB franchises who had waited what felt like an eternity to return to the World Series. The Mets were more recently in the Fall Classic in 2000, but had not won since their memorable seven-game win over the Red Sox in 1986. The Cubs, on the other hand, were still trying to shake off the Curse of the Billy Goat, having not made it since 1945 and won it since 1908. In fact, their first-round victory over the Cardinals was only the second time they had won a playoff series since 1945, along with their NLDS victory in 2003 over the Braves.
In front of a raucous crowd of 44,287 at Citi Field, the Mets took a series lead behind ace Matt Harvey. Daniel Murphy, who launched the deciding home run in Game 5 against the Dodgers, wasted no time making his mark in the NLCS with a first-inning home run off lefty Jon Lester for his fourth dinger of the postseason.
Harvey, meanwhile, was perfect through four with six strikeouts, but he faltered a bit in the fifth in an inning start started when he plunked Anthony Rizzo on an 0-2 pitch. Starlin Castro followed with a double that brought Rizzo home and tied the game up at one. The inning could have been worse, but Yoenis Cespedes gunned down Castro at the plate on a Javier Baez one-out single to limit the damage.
The Mets didn’t wait long to snatch the lead back from Chicago, jumping back ahead in the bottom of the frame after Curtis Granderson singled home Juan Lagares with New York’s second run of the game. The Mets would score in three consecutive innings, with Travis d’Arnaud homering in the sixth off Lester and Granderson again driving Lagares in with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, which would end Lester’s night.
Harvey pitched into the eighth and recorded two outs before Kyle Schwarber unloaded on the pitcher’s final offering of the night and deposited it deep into the bullpen. That blast ended Harvey’s night, and he departed the Citi Field mound to a deafening ovation from the appreciative audience. Jeurys Familia entered in his place and recorded the final four outs to put New York ahead in the series.
Despite the Game 1 loss, Chicago had to feel pretty good about their prospects of evening up the series with eventual 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta on the mound. The Mets had other plans, however, and quickly squashes any good feelings the Cubs might have had. New York jumped out to a three-run lead against the Chicago’s ace before some of the crowd could even find their seats. Granderson led off with a single and scored on a David Wright double to make it 1-0. Murphy, who had already put together, by all measures, an impressive postseason, catapulted it in the “historic” category with another first-inning home run to make it 3-0. This was Murphy’s fourth straight playoff game with a homer, counting his homers in Game 4 and Game 5 of the NLDS. What made the feat even more impressive is that he hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Lester, and Arrieta, three of whom would end up in the top three spots in the Cy Young race at the end of the year.
The Mets coasted from there to an easy victory, adding their fourth run in the third on a Cespedes single. Syndergaard, after impressing out of the pen in Game 5, turned in a stellar start, going 5.2 and allowing just one run on three hits with nine strikeouts. He was lifted with two outs in the fifth after a Bryant double drove home Dexter Fowler.
From there, the Mets’ bullpen recorded the final ten outs while allowing just two baserunners. After Jonathon Niese struck out Rizzo to end the sixth, the ever-reliable Addison Reed turned in a 1-2-3 seventh. Tyler Clippard danced around a two-out single to post a scoreless eighth, and Familia locked down the win with a scoreless ninth to record his second save in as many nights.
The Mets arrived at legendary Wrigley Field looking to take a commanding 3-0 lead with NLDS hero deGrom on the mound. As they did in the first two contests, the Mets jumped out to a quick lead when Wright singled with one out and Cespedes drove him home with a double. The lead was short-lived, however, as Schwarber homered again to knot the score at one.
The game remained tied when Murphy—who else?—homered for the fifth straight postseason game, tying a major league record. The Cubs would get the run back in the fourth with a Jorge Soler solo homer, but deGrom would buckle down after that and keep Chicago off the board for the remainder of his start. The Mets took the lead back for good in the sixth with some small ball. Cespedes led off with a single, made it to second on a Duda bunt, and then stole third. He would come around to score when a Michael Conforto strikeout got away from catcher Miguel Montero and reached the backstop. New York tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh off Justin Grimm on a Cespedes single and a Duda ground out.
In total, deGrom turned in seven stellar innings, allowing just the two runs on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. Terry Collins again turned to Clippard and Familia to finish off the eighth and ninth, respectively, and they did not disappoint. After two ground outs, Familia caught Soler looking to end the game and give the Mets a firm lead in the series.
The Mets, who made a habit of scoring first in every game of the 2015 NLCS, continued that trend with a four-spot in the first inning of Game 4 against Chicago hurler Jason Hammel. Granderson led things off with a single and, after two straight outs, stole second base. Cespedes walked to put two runners on, and Duda drove them both home after hitting a titanic homer to dead center field. Travis d’Arnaud followed that with a home run of his own to make it 4-0 before Chicago got a turn at-bat. The Mets added two in the second with Duda driving home Wright and Murphy on a double.
Steven Matz got his second postseason start and was solid, retiring the first seven batters he faced and pitching three hitless innings. He ran into some trouble in the fourth and surrendered a run on a Schwarber groundout. After retiring the first two in the fifth, he allowed back-to-back singles and was lifted one out short of qualifying for the win. Bartolo Colon came in to strike out Bryant and extinguish the threat.
From there, the Mets didn’t sweat much as they cruised to a relaxing victory en route to the pennant. Colon pitched a scoreless sixth, and Reed did the same in the seventh. With the Mets well on their way to a win, Murphy added the exclamation mark with a solo shot off Fernando Rodney, leading Howie Rose to exclaim, “HE DID IT!” The streak of six consecutive postseason games with a homer remains a record to this day, and was just narrowly missed this year by Giancarlo Stanton, who homered in five straight. It was also Murphy’s seventh home run of the postseason—and his last—which saw him fall one short of tying Barry Bonds (2001), Carlos Beltran (2004), and Nelson Cruz (2011) for the most in a single year.
Bryant would add a solo shot for the Cubs off Clippard in the eighth, but that was as close at Chicago would get. Familia again entered in the ninth for the fourth straight game and was once again effective. With two outs and Montero on second after a walk and a defensive indifference, he punched out Fowler and dropped to his knees on the Wrigley mound as his team surrounded him in pure jubilation.
With that, the Mets improved their record in the National League Championship Series to 5-3 as they clinched their fifth trip to the World Series. To nobody’s surprise, “Murphtober” was named the NLCS MVP after going 9-for-17 with four home runs and six runs batted in. While the season did not end the way the team or its fans would have wanted, the ride was certainly a fun one and brought us some fantastic memories and performances.