In case you have been living under a rock the past week, the New York Mets steamrolled the Chicago Cubs, and it was just as I expected. Good pitching beats good hitting almost every single time. This is why until the latter half of the season, I was excited about the playoffs for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals had that good pitching that every team is searching for. They had the best rotation in baseball and the best bullpen in baseball and things were going good, real good. However, if you’re like me and you’re stats and trends junky, it was a pretty much forgone conclusion that the Cardinals were going to struggle with the Cubs.
If you watched any of this series at all, you noticed that it was distinctly different from the Cubs/Cardinals NLDS that we all endured last week. Up until Game 4 last night, the Mets did not let the Cubs get runners on base, which limited their power. No, they weren’t necessarily able able to cool off Kyle Schwarber and keep him in the ball park all series long, but both of Schwarber’s blasts were solo shots, showing that the Cubs were unable to get guys on in front of their big bats for most of the series.
In the four games of the series, the Cubs’ hitters had a slash of .164/.225/.297 totaling just nine extra-base hits through the series (4 home runs and five doubles) in 128 at-bats, they also struck out 37 times in those 128 at-bats, for a 29% strikeout rate. Oh it gets worse, in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position the Cubs had four total hits (one being Bryant’s HR last night), and two walks, while striking out in seven of those at-bats, that’s good for a 37% strikeout rate (not good).
To start the series, the Dark Knight (Matt Harvey) shut the Cubs’ offense down going 7.2 innings, allowing four hits, two walks, and two runs, all while striking out nine Cubs’ batters. The next night “Thor” (Noah Syndergaard) shut the “lovable losers'” lineup down himself going 5.2 innings, allowing, three hits, one walk, and striking out nine Cubs’ hitters.
Tuesday night, the Mets’ third ace Jacob deGrom, took the hill and did his part. He went seven strong innings, allowing two runs, on four hits and one walk, striking out seven Cubs’ batters in his seven innings. Now, deGrom did give up two home runs (Schwarber and Jorge Soler), but that was only two of the four hits that deGrom allowed.
Last night was a bit different, as the inexperienced rookie Steven Matz took the hill for the Mets. Matz had a somewhat disappointing night as he was the only Mets’ starting pitcher who failed to go five innings. Matz wasn’t too bad as he only allowed four hits, one run, and two walks in his 4.2 innings, striking out four.
Matz’s early departure was due to a 76 pitch count with two outs in the fifth, and Cubs’ hitters starting to put hits together against him. Easy choice for Terry Collins to go to his well rested bullpen to finish the night off. Keep an eye on Matz as he’s either going to be trade bait for the Mets to get some offense this winter or he’s going to be a solid rookie of the year candidate for the Mets next season.
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So, if you’re keeping tally here that’s 11 hits in 20.1 innings pitched by Mets’ first three starting pitchers, “the three aces” as I like to call them. What the Mets did that the Cardinals didn’t was that they kept the Cubs’ off of the bases in front of the power hitters. Until last night, the Cubs didn’t have a single extra-base hit with runners in scoring position and that hit was when they were down 8-1 and the game was all but a foregone conclusion.
The Cardinals’ bullpen and starting pitching was worn down and nowhere near the level that the Mets’ starting pitching was at. They allowed walks, and base hits in front of guys like Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Soler, which resulted in the two and three run homers that we saw so much in the series.
However, the blueprint has been set for how to beat this Cubs team by the Mets, it’s a blueprint the Cardinals (and other teams for that matter) are more than capable of doing next season. The Cardinals will likely return at least three of the five starting pitchers they had this season.
The best pitcher the Cardinals will have against the Cubs will be Carlos Martinez, the one pitcher they missed the most during the division series. The bullpen will get better, as Jordan Walden will likely return and hopefully return to form at that. Hopefully, Mike Matheny will have learned his lesson this season and won’t ride guys like Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist too much and use a more variable bullpen throughout the season.
There will be the re-addition of Adam Wainwright next season, a pitcher who is more than capable of getting hitters off balance and to swing and miss. Hopefully, Lance Lynn (if he returns) will learn to command more of his pitches and rely less on the fastball. I trust that Jaime Garcia will be back and eager to prove he’s better than what happened in Game 2 of the NLDS.
The wild card in all of this? The pitcher we keep telling you about, Alex Reyes. If he can make it to the big leagues next season and somehow be in the rotation due to increased command/control and not due to him being rushed, then look out. Adding him to a rotation with Wainwright, Martinez, Lynn, and Wacha/Garcia will make the Cardinals have a much more formidable rotation.
All in all, the key for the Cardinals to beat this Cubs’ team next year is good pitching. Just like we saw in this NLCS, the Cardinals pitchers have to be better than the Cubs’ hitters and I believe they will be next year.
This Cubs team is good, really good. However, the Mets have shown that if you put together a good pitching staff, they can be beaten. Until their hitters start to adjust and cut down on the strikeouts (not going to happen), they are susceptible to being beat by good pitching.
What are your thoughts on the “friendly rivalry” next year? Excited? Worried? Let me know in the comments!