Sandberg, Maddux lift Cubs in Dream Bracket

April 21st, 2020

CHICAGO -- A lineup that features Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg and Anthony Rizzo. A rotation led by Fergie Jenkins, with Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and Jon Lester behind him. A bullpen anchored by Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith and Kerry Wood.

They are names that link the many great eras of Cubs history, and they are all on the same roster for a unique simulation on The Cubs' "Dream Bracket" roster met the Dream Mets in a first-round matchup.

The North Siders won the series, 4-1, behind standout offensive performances by Billy Williams (.474 average) and Sandberg (one of three players with four RBIs, alongside Kris Bryant and Hack Wilson), plus some key pitching performances, including wins from Greg Maddux and Jenkins. Chicago's first-round win sets up a meeting with the Brewers in the Round of 16.

The MLB Dream Bracket is a 32-team best-of-seven simulation featuring all-time teams for each of the 30 current Major League franchises, as well as teams consisting of Negro Leagues Stars and 25 & Under Stars. The 26-man rosters for each of the teams, compiled by the beat reporters, consist of 15 hitters and 11 pitchers.

For the simulation, players are rated using the average of their three best seasons on a single team. Rosters were constructed with balanced depth to specifically compete in a simulated regulation game.

Here is a game-by-game look at how the Dream Cubs won their series with the Mets.

Game 1: Cubs 10, Mets 3

Behind seven strong innings from Jenkins and two homers off the bat of Sandberg, the Cubs' Dream roster routed the virtual Mets in the opener of the series. Chicago's lineup broke the game open with a seven-run fifth, chasing Tom Seaver (six runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings) from the contest.

Following a leadoff shot off Seaver in the third, Ryno capped off the fifth-inning flurry with a three-run blast off reliever Tug McGraw. Jenkins yielded a two-run homer to David Wright in the seventh, and Darryl Strawberry took Cubs lefty Hippo Vaughn deep in the eighth, but the North Siders had an ample cushion to hold on for the victory.

Game 2: Mets 7, Cubs 0

Mets legend Dwight Gooden tamed the Cubs' lineup in Game 2, silencing the North Side bats over eight brilliant innings. Gooden scattered five hits, struck out seven and worked around three walks in his 96-pitch gem. That was plenty good to outduel Brown, who was knocked out of the game after 3 2/3 innings.

José Reyes set the tone for New York with a leadoff triple in the first, coming around to score on an RBI single by Keith Hernandez. Strawberry stayed hot in the batter's box against the Cubs' staff, launching a three-run homer off Brown in the fourth that blew the game wide open. Jake Arrieta saved Chicago's bullpen with 5 1/3 innings of relief.

Game 3: Cubs 2, Mets 0

Following two games at Wrigley Field, it was a matchup of multiple Cy Young Award winners in Queens. Maddux (a four-time winner) toed the rubber against two-time winner Jacob deGrom, and it was the Mad Dog who came out on top. Maddux blanked the Mets over seven innings, while deGrom was charged with two runs over 5 1/3 frames.

Both Anthony Rizzo (first inning) and Gabby Hartnett (third) delivered a solo homer off deGrom. Maddux, meanwhile, limited New York to a single apiece to Reyes (third) and Mike Piazza (fourth). After Piazza's hit, the Mets went 0-for-12 the rest of the way off Maddux, who then gave way to the Cubs' late-inning trio of Sutter, Smith and Wood.

Game 4: Cubs 5, Mets 3

Lester -- known for his postseason heroics in real life (2.51 ERA and three World Series rings) -- held the Mets to three runs (one earned) over six innings to help the Cubs take a 3-1 lead in the series. Mets starter Jerry Koosman allowed four runs over five frames, which was enough to sink New York.

A two-run homer by Piazza in the first and a solo blast by Wright in the second gifted Koosman with an early 3-0 lead. The Cubs erased that via a two-run single by Wilson in the third, followed by a solo shot apiece by Williams and Gabby Hartnett in the fourth. Banks offered some late insurance with a solo blast off Sid Fernandez, who worked three innings out of the 'pen.

Game 5: Cubs 10, Mets 6

A five-run outburst off Jenkins in the sixth -- powered by a three-run homer by Pete Alonso -- had the Mets in a great position to pick up another game in the series. In fact, New York headed into the ninth inning with a 6-3 lead and closer John Franco (276 of 424 career saves with the Mets) on the mound. That is when things came unraveled.

Franco, Jesse Orosco and Al Leiter could not contain the Cubs' lineup in a seven-run ninth, which featured a pinch-hit grand slam by Bryant and a pinch-hit RBI single from Frank Chance. That robbed Seaver of a win after he held Chicago to two runs (both on a homer by Wilson) over 5 2/3 innings.