NEW YORK -- Lounging in the warmth of his office, Mets manager Terry Collins allowed his mind to wander after National League Championship Series Game 1. He knew what it would do for the Mets if they were able to beat Chicago's best pitcher, Jake Arrieta, in Game 2. He
NEW YORK -- Lounging in the warmth of his office, Mets manager Terry Collins allowed his mind to wander after National League Championship Series Game 1. He knew what it would do for the Mets if they were able to beat Chicago's best pitcher, Jake Arrieta, in Game 2. He understood the sort of towel-waving frenzy it would create at Citi Field if the Mets could fly to Chicago sporting a 2-0 series lead.
That's now reality for a Mets team perched two wins from its first pennant in 15 years.
Daniel Murphy's torrid October continued with a two-run homer off Arrieta, who gave up four runs for the second straight outing in a 4-1 Mets win Sunday night over the Cubs. On a night that saw temperatures again dip into the low 40s, Murphy and pitcher Noah Syndergaard warmed a club that took full advantage of its home-field edge.
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"We're feeling real good," Mets reliever Tyler Clippard said. "We're playing the way we want to play. I think the other teams feel it, and we feel it. We're very confident with what's going on right now."
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The victory puts the Mets in an enviable position heading into Game 3 on Tuesday at Wrigley Field at 8 p.m. ET, with television coverage starting on TBS at 7:30. Of the 25 teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven LCS, 22 have gone on to win the pennant. But of the three that have overcome that deficit, all of them -- the 1985 Royals and Cardinals and the 2004 Red Sox -- lost their first two games on the road before engineering comebacks at home.
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"They got us here," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of his team. "A five-game series is a little bit more daunting, but for right now, it's seven. It's been done before, we can do it ourselves. And from our players' perspective, I want us to focus on the next game, not the fact that you're down two or try to win all three at home. Just try to win the next game."
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After that, Maddon returned to his office and played the theme music from the movie "Rocky."
Murphy's homer was part of a three-run, first-inning rally for the Mets, who knocked Arrieta out of the game after five. Their own starter, Syndergaard, only lasted 5 2/3 innings, though the rookie struck out nine and limited the damage against him to just one run.
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"It makes pitching a lot easier when you go out there and the offense puts a three‑spot on one of the best pitchers in the game right now," Syndergaard said. "Kind of takes a little load off my shoulders."
Kris Bryant doubled home the Cubs' run in the sixth off Syndergaard, who watched from the dugout as Jon Niese fanned Anthony Rizzo to stall the Cubs' best rally of the night.
"We've got work to do," Arrieta said. "The good thing is we get to go home and play three games at Wrigley Field and come out ready to go. Two tough games here, but the series is not over. We feel good about where we're at."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Murphy heats up chilly Citi: One of the more improbable hot streaks in postseason history continued in the first inning, when Murphy smashed an Arrieta curveball over the right-field fence for a two-run homer. In addition to giving the Mets a 3-0 lead, Murphy's shot made him the eighth player in Major League history to homer in four straight postseason games, and the first in Mets history to homer five times in a single postseason. With five October homers, Murphy also matched Mike Piazza's franchise record for most career postseason long balls.
• Murphy's hot streak coming against the best
"He looks like the best hitter on the planet right now," Chicago's Miguel Montero said.
Nice timing: When Syndergaard made his Major League debut at Wrigley Field on May 12, Chris Coghlan hit the first big league home run off the right-hander. Coghlan was in the lineup Sunday because of that, and nearly hit his second off Syndergaard with one out in the second inning, but Granderson made a perfectly timed leaping catch at the wall to rob him. Coghlan got some revenge when he snared Yoenis Cespedes' liner to right up against the wall in the sixth.
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"I saw him. He robbed me," Coghlan said. "Any time you hit a ball you think is a homer and they take it back, it [stinks]. Especially with the magnitude of it. That would have been huge, right after they score three, to come back and chip away. But you have to tip your hat."
Niese fans Rizzo: With Syndergaard up over 100 pitches and one of the Cubs' most dangerous left-handed hitters at the plate, Collins turned to Niese in a three-run game in the sixth. Facing just his second batter of the postseason, Niese -- who lost his grandmother earlier this week, and plans to fly home to Ohio between Games 2 and 3 -- struck out Rizzo on seven pitches, pointing to the sky before walking off the field.
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"Yeah, it was big," Niese said. "You wanted to stop the bleeding. It seemed like they had a little bit of momentum there with Bryant hitting that double. My job was to stop that momentum, and I was able to do that."
Start me up: Arrieta hasn't been as sharp since his complete-game victory over the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, and his velocity has been down. In his last 12 regular-season starts, he gave up seven runs, but in his NL Division Series game and Sunday, he's served up eight runs over 10 2/3 innings. New York's early lead was unusual, too. The last time Arrieta trailed by three runs in a game was July 25, when he last lost as the Phillies' Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter. When Murphy came up in the third with one on and one out, the Cubs opted to walk him, although catcher Miguel Montero had to convince Arrieta to do it.
• Arrieta unable to come to Cubs' rescue
"Physically, I felt fine," Arrieta said. "I knew the high-end velo wasn't necessarily there tonight. I threw quite a few changeups to kind of offset that. Really, the biggest part of the night was the two-run homer. Murphy hit a pretty good pitch. The mistake to him was the turning point in the game. From there, we weren't able to get anything going."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Of the 39 players to hit five or more homers in a single postseason, only three -- Melvin Upton Jr. in 2008, Todd Walker in '03 and Delmon Young in '11 -- posted a lower regular-season home run ratio than Murphy (one every 38.43 at-bats).
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• This was Arrieta's second straight non-quality start. That hadn't happened since May 2-7.
• The Mets improved to 29-14 (.674) all-time at Shea Stadium and Citi Field during postseason play, the best home winning percentage of any franchise.
"Before we even take the field, the other team's got to be like, is this ever going to stop? Is anybody ever not going to throw 99 [mph]? It's such an advantage before we ever even get out on the field." -- Clippard, on the Mets' hard-throwing rotation
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Cubs: After an off-day Monday, the NLCS shifts to Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will make his second postseason start on Tuesday night. The right-hander went 4 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Cardinals, giving up three runs, all on solo homers. Matt Carpenter led off the game with a home run and Hendricks then retired 14 of the next 15 batters.
Mets: The Mets will work out at Wrigley Field on Monday before sending Jacob deGrom to the mound Tuesday for Game 3. This will be deGrom's third playoff start. He blanked the Dodgers over seven innings in NLDS Game 1, before gutting through six quality innings in Game 5.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast