(CBS) The Cubs’ magical season is on the brink.
Right-hander Noah Syndergaard and a quartet of New York relievers baffled Chicago’s young hitters, while Daniel Murphy kept up his white-hot hitting in a 4-1 victory in Game 2 on Sunday night at chilly Citi Field that gave the Mets a commanding 2-0 lead in the NLCS. For the second straight night, the Cubs never led as a hard-throwing Mets youngster kept them off balance.READ MORE: Chicago Police Restrict Time Off For Officers Amid Battle Between City Hall, FOP Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
This time it was the rookie Syndergaard, who struck out nine and allowed just three hits, one walk and a single run in 5 2/3 innings. He was on point from the start, striking out Dexter Fowler to open the game, and he got help in the top of the second when right fielder Curtis Granderson made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Chris Coghlan of a likely home run.
As Syndergaard was dealing, Cubs ace right-hander Jake Arrieta struggled for his second straight start after a historic regular season. The Mets got to him immediately, as Granderson led off with a single and then scored on David Wright’s RBI double to deep center.
One batter later, Murphy hit his fifth homer of the postseason — the first four came off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Jon Lester — when he pulled a low, inside curveball from Arrieta and kept it inside the right-field foul pole for a 3-0 lead. The Citi Field crowd of 44,542 would serenade him with chants of “Murphy, Murphy, Murphy” throughout the night.
“The ambush early got us,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
“That was the game right there.”
The Mets added a run in the third inning on an RBI infield single by Yoenis Cespedes. The Cubs got their lone run in the sixth inning off an RBI double from Kris Bryant that chased Syndergaard from the game. Jon Niese came on in relief of Syndergaard and struck out Anthony Rizzo to prevent any further damage.
Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia followed with a scoreless inning each. The Cubs finished with just five hits — two by Dexter Fowler and Bryant, and an infield hit by Rizzo in the ninth. Everyone else combined to go 0-for-21.READ MORE: Artist Nate Baranowski Uses Chalk Art To Bring Halloween Festivity To Howard Street In Rogers Park
“They pitched well, and they beat us,” Maddon said, simply summing it up.
On a night in which temperatures were in the low 40s, the Mets’ power pitching was too much for the Cubs to overcome. Maddon joked that what he wants going into Game 3 is for temperatures to rise by 15 degrees.
“That’s tough on hitters, especially in weather like this,” Mets manager Terry Collins said, noting his team’s blessed to have power pitchers in the starting rotation when most clubs just have them in the bullpen.
The Cubs now find themselves in a massive hole. Teams like the Mets who have home-field advantage and take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win 80 percent of the time in MLB history, per whowins.com, and the pitching matchups don’t favor the Cubs either.
After Monday’s off day, New York will trot out right-hander Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA) in Game 3 on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, while Chicago will turn to right-hander Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA).
“We’re all about one-game winning streaks,” Maddon said of the Cubs’ mindset entering Game 3.
“Our guys are fine. Our guys are fine.”MORE NEWS: City Officials, Community Leaders Hit Streets To Urge People To Get First COVID-19 Shots, Boosters, And Flu Shots
In Game 4, the Mets will start rookie left-hander Steven Matz (4-0, 2.27 ERA). The Cubs will likely start right-hander Jason Hammel (10-7, 3.74 ERA), Maddon said earlier Sunday, but they could choose to move Lester up and start him on short rest if needed.