Both lower seeds in the NLDS advanced to the NLCS, so it will be the wild card Cubs facing the East Division Champion Mets, and the New York pitching depth should decide things.
The series underdogs appear to have the better starting pitching depth, which should give them good value as the wild card but favored Chicago Cubs have advanced to the NLDS to face those underdog National League East Champion New York Mets with Game 1 of this best four-of-seven series set for Citi Field in Flushing, NY Saturday night at 8:05 ET on TBS.
The posted series price at 5 Dimes has New York as a moderate underdog for this NLCS at current odds of +125.
Beat Kershaw and Greinke to Get Here
The Mets surprised many by downing the Los Angeles Dodgers as around +170 series underdogs in their NLDS, and they certainly earned this NLCS bid by beating probably two of the top three pitchers in baseball, defeating Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and then, most critically, beating Zack Greinke 3-2 in the deciding Game 5 on Thursday.
The downside for the Mets was that they needed Jacob deGrom to start that Game 5 and they also used up NLDS Game 2 starter Noah Syndergaard in relief. But the good news is that they still have Matt Harvey on hand to start Game 1 of this series!
The Cubs meanwhile lost Game 1 of their NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals before being the winning MLB picks in the next three games, taking Game 2 on the road and the next two games at Wrigley Field, remarkably marking the first time in the Cubs’ long history that they wrapped up a post-season series of any kind at home! They are now seeking to reach their first World Series since 1908, which was also the last time the franchise won a championship.
Cubs May Have Best Pitcher on the Planet…
And now the Mets may be facing the best pitcher of all in National League Cy Young Award favorite Jake Arrieta, although he did show that he was human by having probably his worst start since the All-Star break in the NLDS Game 3 vs. the Cardinals where he allowed four earned runs of five hits in 5.2 innings, albeit still with nine strikeouts. We would not worry too much about that though on an unseasonably mild day in Chicago with the wind blowing out.
Arrieta is slated to start Game 2 of this series at Citi Field in New York, and remember that he did his best pitching on the road this year as he posted a ridiculous 1.60 ERA and 0.87 WHIP while going 13-1 away from Wrigley Field. Also, Jake was unhittable after the All-Star break regardless of the venue going 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 113 strikeouts vs. just 23 walks in 107.1 innings. And those numbers don’t include his four-hit shutout in the Wild Card!
So there is no disputing that the Cubs have the single best starting pitcher in this series, and our ratings also had the entire Chicago starting rotation rated third best of all the playoff teams before the post-season began. The problem for the Cubs here though is that we had and still have the Mets’ rotation graded as the best.
A rotation filled out by Game 1 starter Jon Lester, who finally pitched like the ace the Cubs thought they signed as the most coveted free agent this past off-season the second half of this year, as well as the underrated Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel, would work just fine against most other playoff teams this year. However, it seems a cut below what the Mets trot out on a nightly basis.
…But Mets Have the Deeper Staff
You may recall that we backed the Mets as large underdogs to win their NLDS due to their better pitching depth, so if they can upset a staff with two of the best pitchers in baseball, we see no reason not to back them as underdogs again vs. a staff that has only one starting pitcher that figures to have an advantage over the opponent.
Harvey was actually considered the ace of the staff before the season and he put up ace-like numbers despite a mediocre 13-8 record, as he posted a 2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 188 strikeouts in 189.1 innings vs. just 37 walks. So it is not as if New York is merely “settling” by starting Harvey in Game 1.
Syndergaard pitched only one inning of relief on Thursday in what would have been his normal “throw day” anyway, and it was an electric inning at that while continually hitting 100 MPH, so he should be good to go in Game 2 Sunday with the current Mets’ ace deGrom then pitching on normal rest in Game 3 Tuesday in Chicago.
The weakest link for the Mets is supposedly the fourth starter Steven Matz, but that is only because of limited Major League experience and not because of ability as he may be the next great pitcher in line to come up through the New York farm system. And although Matz lost Game 4 of the NLDS to Kershaw and the Dodgers, he has still yet to allow more than three runs in any of his five Major League starts after going a perfect 4-0 during the season.
To summarize, the Cubs have the best pitcher in this series but the Mets have the better rotation and should hold the pitching edge in every game not started by Arrieta,. And even in those starts, the Mets at least have pitchers capable of matching Arrieta until the bullpens get involved.
When you add that deeper staff with having the home field advantage, we feel that trumps the Cubs being the hottest team in baseball down the stretch and gives the Mets good value at this underdog price to win this series.
Mets in 7
MLB Pick: Mets +125 (series)