Chicago Cubs (+110) at New York Mets (-115, 6.5 o/u)
One thing is for certain, a long-suffering fan base is going to see its team reach the 2015 World Series. That proposition became a guarantee when the New York Mets (3-2, 1-1 home) knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of their National League Division Series on Thursday (3-2). Awaiting the Mets in the NLCS are the Chicago Cubs (3-1, 1-1 away), the team with the longest World Series drought in the majors. Chicago and New York will start their best-of-seven series tonight at Citi Field (7:30 PM Eastern).
The Cubs will turn to lefty Jon Lester (11-12, 3.34 ERA) in Game 1, while the Mets will counter with the “Dark Knight” Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71 ERA). Lester entered the season as Chicago’s “ace,” but had a bit of an off year, finishing one game below .500. Lester also took the loss in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, but he didn’t pitch terribly, going 7.1 innings, giving up five hits and three earned runs, while striking out nine. As has happened for much of the season, he just didn’t get the run support to earn the W.
Harvey is 1-0 in the postseason after winning Game 3 against the Dodgers. Though he only gave up two earned runs, he surrendered seven hits and was lifted after just five innings.
Harvey will have the tough task of shutting down a Cubs lineup that is averaging just over five runs per game in the postseason and has already cranked out 12 homers (led by Kyle Schwarber with three).
Apart from a 13-7 win in Game 3, the Mets have been getting it done with pitching and defense. They didn’t score more than three runs in any other game against LA, but were able to hold the Dodgers to just one run in their Game 1 victory (3-1) and two runs in the decisive Game 5.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy carried his strong regular season performance into the playoffs, notching three homers of his own and five RBIs in the five-game series with LA. Trade-deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes, who was almost single-handedly responsible for turning the Mets into a respectable offensive team in the latter half of the season, also acquitted himself nicely, belting two dingers and driving in four.
The Mets offense is no longer the anemic crew we saw at the start of the year, but their bats aren’t on par with the young Cubs sluggers. Given that the pitching matchup doesn’t strongly favor either team, Chicago (+110) looks like the better value in Game 1.
(Photo credit: MBDChicago (Jorge Soler 2014) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)