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2015 NLCS Preview: New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs

Plucky underdogs from the small markets of New York and Chicago face off for the National League pennant...

Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs both entered 2015 with a lot of young talent in the system, but the consensus was that each team was likely still another year away from proper contention. You know kids though, they hate to wait for anything. The Mets were supposed to be far behind Washington, but the Nationals collapsed and the Mets won the East comfortably. The Cubs were supposed to be overmatched by the sport's premier franchise of the 21st century, St. Louis. The Cardinals did win the Central, but the Cubs won 97 games during the regular season and dispatched their longtime rivals in the first ever postseason series between the two teams.

Now here they are, each of them four wins away from the World Series.

Schedule (all games televised on TBS):

  • Game 1  (in New York): Saturday, 10/17 @ 8:07 ET
  • Game 2  (in New York): Sunday, 10/18 @ 8:07 ET
  • Game 3 (in Chicago): Tuesday, 10/20 @ 8:07 ET
  • Game 4 (in Chicago): Wednesday, 10/21 @ 8:07 ET
  • Game 5 (in Chicago): Thursday, 10/22 @ 8:07 ET
  • Game 6 (in New York): Saturday, 10/24 @ 4:07 ET
  • Game 7 (in New York): Saturday, 10/25 @ 8:07 ET

Here are the projected starting pitchers for each team:

Game Pitcher ERA FIP IP K% BB%
1 Matt Harvey R 2.71 3.05 24.9 4.9
2 Noah Syndergaard R 3.24 3.25 27.5 5.1
3 Jacob deGrom R 2.54 2.70 27.3 5.1
4 Steven Matz L 2.27 3.61 22.8 6.7

Game Pitcher ERA FIP IP K% BB%
1 LHP Jon Lester L 3.34 2.92 25.0 5.7
2 RHP Jake Arrieta R 1.77 2.35 27.0 5.5
3 RHP Kyle Hendricks R 3.95 3.36 22.6 5.8
4 RHP Jason Hammel R 3.74 3.68 24.2 5.6

Harvey vs. Lester in Game 1 (and likely in a potential Game 5) is a very even matchup, while Arrieta gets the edge in Game 2 (and a potential Game 6), though it should be noted that Arrieta is now 87 innings above his previous career high. That isn't to say he's running out of gas, but no one can keep doing what Arrieta did during the second half forever. The Mets have the better option in Games 3 and 4 (and a potential Game 7), and you shouldn't be surprised if Chicago manager Joe Maddon goes to his bullpen very early in those games.

Speaking of the bullpens, the Cubs have a stronger one, especially with New York manager Terry Collins only seeming to trust three or four of his guys right now. Bartolo Colon will be the most prominent former Indian in this series; he'll likely appear in relief a couple times.

The Cubs also have the better defense, though not dramatically so.

On offense, the two teams' regular season numbers look pretty similar, with both looking something like average. If you focus on the last three months though, it's a very different story for both teams. The Mets went out and traded for Yoenis Cespedes, who was tremendous down the stretch for them. Others like Curtis Granderson also posted much better numbers during the second half. David Wright is healthy agin, and Daniel Murphy had a tremendous series against the Dodgers in the NLDS. After the All-Star break, the Mets hit 102 home runs, the most by any National League team. The Cubs were second, with 94. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber are the top power-hitting trio in the NL, and watching Chicago's young lineup against New York's young pitching will be the treat of this series as far as I'm concerned.

The Mets haven't been to the World Series since 2000, and haven't won one since 1986. For a team that plays in a city that considers itself the capital of the world, those are pretty long dry spells. The Cubs, of course, are unbeatable when it comes to dry spells, not having appeared in a World Series since 1945, and not having won one since 1908.

Ten days from now one of those teams will have ended its wait for an NL pennant, and the series between them could be a classic.