Dan-cin' in the sweep: Mets waltz into World Series!
CHICAGO -- The spray of champagne is becoming routine. Once so inexperienced with this sort of thing that their younger players approached Michael Cuddyer and Juan Uribe in Cincinnati last month, asking how to celebrate, the Mets have since made it rote. They chased each other around their clubhouse following their 8-3 win over the Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday at Wrigley Field, capping the first four-game sweep of a postseason series in franchise history. They hugged and cracked open celebratory drinks and hugged some more after winning their fifth NL pennant and reaching their first World Series since 2000.
"The World Series," third baseman David Wright kept saying, over and over again. "The World Series."
"Say that one more time, Dave," hitting coach Kevin Long yelled from nearby.
"The World Series!" Wright complied.
The Mets' final act in reaching this dream was a nine-inning demonstration of their might at Wrigley Field. Lucas Duda hit a three-run home run off Jason Hammel in the first inning and a two-run double off Travis Wood in the second, giving the Mets a 6-0 lead that they never came close to relinquishing. Steven Matz allowed one run into the fifth, Bartolo Colon bridged the middle innings and Jeurys Familia finished off the Cubs. Then the Mets poured out of their dugout to celebrate the franchise's first NL pennant in 15 years. Up next for New York is the winner of the American League Championship Series between the Blue Jays and Royals, who lead the series 3-2.
"You get so excited when you're able to come together and accomplish something like this," NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy said.
This NLCS pitted two teams seemingly ahead of schedule against one another. The Cubs possessed gobs of young hitters, but weren't sure how quickly they could gel. The Mets boasted an embarrassment of pitching, from Matz to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey, but couldn't be certain how their offense would score.
In the end, pitching won. Hammel recorded just four outs in Game 4, giving up four runs on consecutive homers from Duda and Travis d'Arnaud. The Cubs stranded four men on base in the fourth and fifth innings against Matz and Colon, three of them in scoring position. And while the 42,227 crammed into Wrigley Field for the last time this season never lost heart, chanting and clapping and screaming until the end, the end did eventually come for the Cubs. They never led in the series.
"They did not let us up for air at any point," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Their domination of the early part of the game and their pitching was impressive. They played well. They didn't make mistakes. So it's not so much to be disappointed in our performance. They were just that good for four days, man. I've got to give them credit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back-to-back: Duda and d'Arnaud almost immediately quieted a sold-out Wrigley Field crowd when they bashed consecutive homers off Hammel in the first inning. That gave Matz a four-run lead before he ever took the mound. Duda wasn't finished, hitting a two-run double off Wood the next inning. More >
"I've been telling everybody that asked, it's pretty surreal to be in this position," Duda said. "I'm speechless. It's something that you dream about, and it's finally coming true. It's pretty special."
Leadoff man: Jorge Soler doubled to lead off the fourth, the first Cubs hit leading off an inning in the series. Kris Bryant then walked and Anthony Rizzo singled to load the bases, but third baseman Wright made a perfectly timed leap to catch Starlin Castro's liner. The Cubs did tally on Kyle Schwarber's groundout to first, but shortstop Wilmer Flores grabbed Javier Baez's foul ball near the Chicago bullpen to end the inning.
"They made the plays -- like my first [at-bat] of the game, [Duda] dives for the ball, and I'm like, 'OK,'" Dexter Fowler said. "All you can do is hit balls and put it in play and see where it goes."
Babe Murphy: Not to be outdone, Murphy slugged a home run in a Major League-record sixth consecutive postseason game when he took Fernando Rodney deep in the eighth. Aside from giving the Mets an 8-1 lead, Murphy's shot passed Carlos Beltran's record of five straight games with a homer for the 2004 Astros. The Mets' all-time leader in postseason homers despite playing just nine such games for them, Murphy finished 4-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBIs. More >
"Daniel Murphy, I've not seen anything like this, I don't think ever," Maddon said. "I saw [Barry] Bonds in the 2002 World Series where you did not want to throw a baseball to him. Right now, it's just incredible, line drive to left, homer to right or homer to center. He looks like he's going to hit the ball hard on every pitch. It's unusual to see a guy that locked in and that locked in at this particular moment."
Teachable moment: The Cubs had two on and two outs in the fifth to chase Matz. That pitted Colon against the rookie Bryant. The Mets' pitcher prevailed, getting Bryant swinging at strike three. Colon barely topped 90 mph with his fastball in the six-pitch at-bat, but located perfectly. Bryant did get some revenge in the eighth when he hit a two-run homer off Tyler Clippard. Bryant finished the postseason with a double, a triple, two homers and five RBIs in nine games.
"I've been in baseball for 45 years. I've never met more passion, and fans that want to win more, who love their team more than Mets fans. This is for them. This is for all the hard work, for all the bad years, all the tough years. They've hung in there. And this is for them. We're going to bring the World Series to Citi Field." -- Mets manager Terry Collins
"I was saying I want them to understand and embrace all that they have done well this year. Just don't look at these last couple games and focus on that at all. See how far we've come within a very short period of time, understand the personal growth and the team growth that occurred, and also understand we go to Spring Training next year, we can really just jump right on it. We know what we want to do and how we want to do it. I could not be more thrilled with the group." -- Maddon, on his message to the players after the game
With two outs in the Mets' third, Wood was ahead, 1-1, against Matz, and threw a strike to veteran catcher David Ross. Ross calmly trotted to the dugout, and rolled the ball to a fan. But the count was 1-2, and when Ross realized his mistake, he asked for the ball back from the fan, got it and threw it to Wood. Matz did eventually strike out, and as Ross exited, he tossed the ball into the seats. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Colon picked up the win in relief, his first in the postseason since the 2001 AL Division Series when he pitched for the Indians. It was the longest gap between postseason victories for any pitcher in history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
This is the first time the Cubs have been swept in a best-of-seven postseason series since the 1938 World Series, when they lost in four games to the Yankees. The Mets had never swept a best-of-seven series. Their previous sweeps in the 1969 NLCS and 2006 NLDS were both best-of-five series.
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes exited after two innings due to left shoulder soreness, but he said he fully plans to be ready in time for Game 1 of the World Series. "If not," Cespedes added, "I'll chop it off and put a new one on." More >
Mets: The Mets will sleep in Thursday, enjoy some family time, whatever they please. By sweeping the Cubs, they earned themselves a few days of rest and light workouts before flying either to Kansas City or Toronto for a final World Series tune-up on Monday. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday on FOX in the AL winner's ballpark.