Tale of the Tape: Matz vs. Hammel
The Mets, who lead the National League Championship Series, 3-0, need one more victory to advance to their first World Series since 2000. That makes Game 4 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time on TBS) at Wrigley Field a must-win for the Cubs, who will throw veteran Jason Hammel against New York's promising rookie Steven Matz.
Here's a look at how those pitchers could fare:
Steven Matz, Mets
Against the Cubs: This is Matz's first career start against the Cubs.
Loves/Hates to face: Matz has never faced any of the Cubs' hitters in the Major Leagues.
Why he'll win: Matz excelled in limited action during his rookie season, posting a 2.27 ERA in six starts and showing the wipeout stuff that made him New York's second-round pick in the 2009 Draft. As his emphatic June 28 big league debut (7 2/3 innings of two-run ball, four RBIs) proved, he gives the Mets an extra offensive weapon as well. What's more, the Cubs struggled (.697 OPS) against lefties at Wrigley Field during the regular season.
Pitcher beware: Matz, 24, is the least experienced of New York's four young hurlers, and he is coming off a Game 4 loss in the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. Right-handed batters hit all four homers Matz allowed in his six regular-season starts, and the Cubs have quite a few right-handed hitters that can leave the yard with regularity.
Bottom line: Matz never really had a chance to win his NL Division Series start, not with the way Clayton Kershaw threw that night. But against most pitchers, a similar effort Wednesday will give the Mets a chance. Matz has never allowed more than three earned runs in a Major League start, including this postseason.
Jason Hammel, Cubs
Against the Mets
2015: 1 GS, 0-0, 1.13 ERA
Career: 5 GS, 0-3, 4.91 ERA
Loves to face: David Wright, .143 (1-for-7), 3 K's
Hates to face: Curtis Granderson, .333 (8-for-24), 2 2B, 2 HR; Daniel Murphy, .545 (6-for-11), 2 2B; Kelly Johnson, .300 (9-for-30), 2 HR, 10 K's
Why he'll win: Opposing batters hit below .200 against Hammel's three breaking pitches this season, for the first time in his career. If he can establish those and keep New York's hot hitters away from his sinker (.339 batting average against), Hammel could dominate.
Pitcher beware: Hammel's ERA almost doubled (2.86 to 5.10) in the second half, and his ERA was almost half a run higher (3.99 to 3.49) at home this season. He won just two of eight starts at Wrigley Field after the All-Star break, and is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in four postseason starts.
Bottom line: The Cubs need Hammel to pitch like he did in the first half in what will be a must-win Game 4.