4 ingredients for the Mets to close out NLCS
The Mets took care of business at Citi Field in Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series, settling into the driver's seat primed for their first World Series berth since 2000. But they're still only halfway there.
New York needs two wins in the remaining five games of the series to advance, and can put a bow on the NLCS at Wrigley Field, where both teams are headed for the next three games (if necessary) of the best-of-seven series.
Game 3 is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET air time and 8 p.m. game time (TBS) on Tuesday in Chicago.
So what do the Mets need to do to meet either Kansas City or Toronto in the World Series? Here are four ingredients to a winning formula:
1. Keep winning the bullpen game: Mets manager Terry Collins has been more than adept at pushing the right buttons with his relief pitchers, pulling his starters at the opportune moment and plugging in relievers (some who have started games this season) at just the right time. It was Jon Niese who stranded a runner in a big spot on Sunday before Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia made spotless appearances. Familia also threw 1 1/3 shutout innings in Game 1.
2. Get Duda and Wright going: It's no secret the Mets have received a ton of production from Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy this fall. Meanwhile, the team's top home run hitter from the regular season (Lucas Duda, with 27) and captain (David Wright) have been quiet. Wright is 2-for-23 with two runs and three RBIs this postseason, and Duda is 2-for-21 with a run and 13 strikeouts. To have one -- or both -- of those players start to heat up would give Collins some additional peace of mind.
3. Keep the ball in the ballpark: The Mets have sufficient power (seven guys with double-digit home run totals this season, and two with 25-plus) but they can't match the Cubs' power distribution (nine guys with double-digit homers this year), particularly at Wrigley Field. The Cubs already set a record with six home runs in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, but have hit only one homer (a Game 1 blast from Kyle Schwarber) in the first two games of the NLCS. If the Mets can keep the Cubs, who have hit a postseason-high 13 homers already, from going yard, New York will be in good shape.
4. Finish the job: In the 25 instances when a team went up 2-0 in a best-of-seven League Championship Series, that team has won the series 22 times. That puts the Mets (who have home-field advantage in the series) in a good situation. But each of the three teams that have come back from an 0-2 deficit in a seven-game LCS (the 1985 Royals, 1985 Cardinals and 2004 Red Sox) lost the first two on the road. The Mets must hold firm to prevent the Cubs from storming back and reaching their first World Series since 1945.