“So close, no matter how far….”
These words are the opening lyrics to Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” single from their self-titled album in 1991. It is also the words many Chicago Cubs fans were saying after the team was swept by the New York Mets in the 2015 National League Championship Series.
While that phrase “couldn’t be more from the heart,” the Cubs know the feeling all too well. During the regular season, the teams were no match for each other with the Cubs winning the series 7-0.
That did not matter in the post-season.
The 2015 season game stats were one-sided, with the Cubs outscoring the Mets 27-11. Jacob deGrom was 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA versus the Cubs, his lowest against any team not named the Yankees. Noah Syndergaard had an ERA of 5.06. Bartolo Colon only pitched one inning in the regular season. That was the regular season.
The postseason was a different story. Let us take a moment of silence to reflect on what could have been.
This season began with praise for the Cubs and Mets alike. The line-up the Cubs created through off-season moves was going to be hard to beat. You couldn’t tell that to Mets fans who were clinging to a powerhouse rotation and the results of 2015, 2003, 1945, and 1908.
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So far in 2016, the Mets have the lowest team batting average in the MLB, a full 20 points behind the Cub, and scored 129 fewer runs. In terms of pitching, the Mets are number two in the majors with a 3.34 ERA, allowing only 251 earned runs all year. The team they trail?
The Cubs, with a team ERA of 2.89 and allowing 221 earned runs. The Cubs’ staff is also topped in MLB with a .206 opponent’s batting average, with the Mets’ staff at .252.
This four-game series sets up well for the Mets. The Cubs have been struggling of late, winning only 4 of their last 11 games. Scoring had been difficult without lead-off man and center fielder Dexter Fowler, who is not set to return until after this series.
The vaunted Mets’ staff has struggled of late as well, especially Matt Harvey, whom the Cubs will not face this series. Jacob deGrom is 3-4 on the season but has not won a start since May 5.
Steven Matz started the year off on fire but is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in June. The team has won only one of his last five starts.
Here are the probable matchups for the series.
June 30: Matz (7-3, 3.29 ERA) vs. Lackey (7-4, 3.29 ERA) — MLB Network, CSN, 670 The Score
July 1: deGrom (3-4, 2.67 ERA) vs. Hammel (7-4, 2.58 ERA) — MLB Network, WGN, 670 The Score
July 2: Colon (6-4, 2.86 ERA) vs. Arrieta (12-2, 2.10 ERA) — FOX, 670 The Score
July 3: Syndergaard (8-3, 2.49 ERA) vs. Lester (9-3, 2.03 ERA) — WGN, 670 The Score
Both teams have struggled of late. Will this series at Citi Field be seen as a two National League powers dueling for supremacy or will it be a repeat of the sweeps from last year? For the Cubs to prove that they are the team to beat, they will need to trust in who they are….
And nothing else matters.