4 ingredients for Cubs winning NLCS Game 4
CHICAGO -- There's no mincing words: After their 5-2 loss in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night, the Cubs have a tough road ahead.
The only team to come back from a 3-0 postseason series deficit was the 2004 Red Sox, who famously stormed back against the rival Yankees to take that American League Championship Series and, eventually, the World Series.
Do the Cubs -- with former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein now at the helm of the club's resurgence, and former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez on the Chicago bench as a coach -- have it in them to do it against a different New York club?
Chicago has not led at any point in Games 1-3 of this NLCS against the Mets. Here are four ingredients to getting a lead Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time on TBS), and holding on to it for a Game 4 victory:
• Quality stuff from Jason Hammel: If any two teams know, it's the Cubs and the Mets: postseason success begins and ends with quality starting pitching. That's been the case for the Mets through their postseason run, and it will have to be the case for the Cubs in Game 4 if they want to extend their season. Hammel made one start against the Mets this year, allowing one run on five hits over eight innings in a no-decision on May 13. But he's winless (0-3) in his career against New York, and the right-hander has faltered against some of the Mets' stars (Curtis Granderson is a .333 hitter lifetime against Hammel in the regular season, and Daniel Murphy has hit .545).
• Lead it off: Cubs hitters have had practically no success leading off innings against the Mets this NLCS, to the tune of 0-for-25 through three games. Only Anthony Rizzo, hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth and walked to lead off the seventh in Game 1, has gotten on with zero outs. In one of those two instances, he scored.
• Fight history: Not only do teams have their back up against the wall in a series down 3-0 (1-33 in those series, to be exact), but they haven't had much luck historically in Game 4. In all seven-game series, teams that enter Game 4 down 3-0 are 6-28 in that fourth game. Cubs manager Joe Maddon preaches the importance of "one-game winning streaks." The Cubs will need one on Wednesday to have a chance at another in a potential Game 5 at Wrigley Field on Thursday.
• Silence Murphy: A victory on Wednesday not only depends on what the Cubs do themselves; another factor is what they keep the Mets from doing. No New York player has done as much this postseason as second baseman Murphy, who hit his sixth home run of the postseason (a Mets all-time postseason record) and his third of the NLCS with his solo shot off Kyle Hendricks on Tuesday. Murphy is 6-for-11 with two doubles, a walk and a strikeout lifetime against Hammel. He has also homered in five straight postseason games, which ties the record set by Carlos Beltran in 2004 with the Astros.