The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs face off in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) with the NL pennant and a spot in the World Series up for grabs, which would be the first for either team since 2000 (Game 1: 8.05pm ET, Saturday).
In the regular season, the Cubs were a perfect 7-0 against the Mets, outscoring New York by 16 runs. But this was a very different Mets team, most notably in the absence of Yoenis Cespedes, who wasn’t traded to New York until after the season series was completed. In large part to Cespedes, who slugged two home runs in the NLDS, the Mets paced the National League in the second half of the season, leading in runs and home runs. Finishing second in those categories were the Cubs.
Another difference from the Mets then and now is in the pitching staff, New York’s best asset. With so much depth, starter Jonathan Niese, who pitched in two of the games against the Cubs, is now in the bullpen.
Point being, it’s hard to look at that record, despite how glaring it may seem, for anything more than what it is. Both the Cubs and the Mets have come a long way since then and the fact that both, despite finishing with sub-.500 records just a season ago, are competing for the pennant, says a lot. Not to mention, this is the first time that the Mets and the Cubs are meeting in the playoffs.
There’s a lot on the line for these two young teams but so far both have shown poise despite lack of playoff experience. Both are incredibly talented teams and are looking to return to the top of the baseball world.
Here our NLCS preview highlights some key storylines prior to giving our betting picks and predictions:
Pitching Wins Championships
The 26-year-old Matt Harvey has been incredible since coming back from the Tommy John surgery that cost him much of last year. Harvey finished the season with a 2.71 ERA, 188 strikeouts and 13 wins. In the playoffs he pitched just once, lasting five innings and giving up two earned runs on seven hits. It wasn’t his best start but he kept the Mets and himself in line for the victory, which is exactly what happened.
He is just one of the talented young arms on New York’s staff. Behind Harvey is the trio of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Matz. All four of the young pitchers have had success this year and deGrom and Syndergaard, despite not being playoff tested or proven, were tasked in crucial bullpen duties against the Dodgers and responded with incredible resiliency.
Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Jake Arrieta, who continued to put finishing touches on what should be his first NL Cy Young winning campaign, looks to take the mound in game two. Arrieta finished the regular season with a 1.77 ERA, 22 wins, 236 strikeouts and a 0.86 WHIP. He led the NL in complete games and wins, and finished no worse than third in any pitching category. In the playoffs, it was more of the same. Arrieta was tasked with starting the win-or-go home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and again took the mound once in the series against the NL-best St. Louis Cardinals. Arrieta pitched 14.2 innings in those two games and gave up a total of four runs while walking just two and striking out 20. He, like Harvey, has a blemish-free record in the postseason.
Other than Arrieta, Chicago has some decent arms itself, not the least of which is game one starter Jon Lester (pictured). Lester is playoff tested and proven unlike any of his opponents or teammates at this point. A World Series champion, Lester has pitched over 91 postseason innings and has an ERA of 2.66. He has allowed just 72 hits and has struck out 82.
Of the remaining playoff teams, no one is scoring more runs than the Cubs and only the Houston Astros are scoring more runs than the Mets. Chicago leads the remaining teams with 24 runs, 12 home runs and 24 RBI. The Mets were no slouches either – they have scored 22 runs and are tied with the Texas Rangers and Astros for most doubles of the remaining teams. The Mets also have seven home runs which is again behind just the Astros and Cubs.
Leading the way for the Mets is Daniel Murphy, who hit three of those six home runs and whose heads up base running helped New York topple the LA Dodgers in the NLDS. Murphy has been one of the most consistent Mets and he did so against Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, two former Cy Young award winners. He will be facing another in Arrieta but Murphy is hot right now and so Is Cespedes. The Mets will look to the continued production from these two if they hope to advance to the World Series.
For the Cubs, the man of the hour is Kyle Schwarber, the 22-year-old rookie who has been turning heads since his promotion earlier this year. Schwarber too has three home runs in the postseason. He also has seven hits, four runs and five RBI. He is hitting .538. Like Murphy, Schwarber’s offensive production was a large part of why the Cubs advanced past the Cardinals, the best team in baseball. Behind Schwarber was shortstop Addison Russell, but just like Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada, an injury has left him unable to be involved in the NLCS. Replacing him is another rookie, Javier Baez, who already has four hits in five postseason at bats.
Our Preview’s Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets Betting Picks
Starting Lester in game one allows Chicago not only to give Arrieta an extra day of rest, but it allows them to put a veteran on the mound in the first home game. Against, Harvey, Lester has the experience and is less likely to be rattled. Here are our preview’s prediction & betting picks:
- So in game one take the Cubs to topple the Mets @ best betting odds of +110 on the moneyline with 5Dimes Sportsbook.
- As for the series, it’s seven games and it’s going to be a fun one. There’s something to say for the prophecy though. Joe Maddon said it years ago and he was laughed at. Steven Spielburg even predicted it in Back to the Future 2. The Cubs journey to fulfilling that prophecy will continue. Take the Cubs to win the series @ best odds of -128 with Betonline Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.