Wait till next year? Maybe not for the New York Mets but another loss by the Chicago Cubs will have that familiar refrain echoing throughout Wrigley Field.
Daniel Murphy’s bat and an array of overpowering arms have the Mets on the brink of sweeping the Cubs and reaching the World Series for the first time in 15 years Wednesday night.
After going 0-7 against Chicago in the regular season, New York has compiled a 1.67 ERA to build a 3-0 lead in this NL Championship Series, getting dominant performances from starters Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
DeGrom had a gutsy performance Tuesday, giving up two runs in the first four innings before shutting down the Cubs over the next three in a 5-2 win.
"Being up 3-0, we’re very, very fortunate, because the Cubs have played great," manager Terry Collins said.
That certainly applies to Murphy, who has been just as reliable as the pitching – the Mets’ calling card all year. The second baseman has homered in five straight postseason games to tie the major league record set by Carlos Beltran with Houston in 2004.
He put the Mets ahead 2-1 Tuesday with a solo homer in the third inning, finishing 2 for 5 with two runs. His six playoff homers are a franchise record, and he’s batting .364 with nine RBIs and nine runs while getting a hit in each of New York’s eight postseason games.
"I wish I could explain it," Murphy said. "I would have done it like six years ago. I can’t explain it. I can only thank (hitting coach) Kevin Long and (assistant) Pat Roessler for the work that they’ve put in with not only myself but with all the guys hitting. I wish I could explain it; I can’t."
Chicago is in search of comfort as it clings to the hope of winning its first World Series since 1908. Cubs president Theo Epstein has been in an 0-3 hole in the LCS before as his Boston Red Sox came back against the New York Yankees in 2004 and ultimately won their first World Series since 1918.
"Of course you think about those things, you think about the parallels, think about the fact that that happened against a New York team," manager Joe Maddon said. "We think about all that stuff, but it’s up to us to go out and play and execute."
The Cubs were last swept in a best-of-seven series in the 1938 World Series against the Yankees.
Avoiding a similar fate will require solving the Mets’ pitching and Chicago is about to get its first look at rookie phenom Steven Matz in Game 4.
The left-hander went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in six regular-season starts. He allowed three runs in five innings of a 3-1 defeat to Los Angeles in Game 4 of the division series Oct. 13 in his first appearance in nearly three weeks due to a sore back.
Matz isn’t concerned with the long layoff.
"I still feel set to go," he said. "We’ve been doing this before. We’ve been on the sixth man, been on a five man, we’ve had days off. So I feel like I was able to get two bullpen sessions in, so feel ready to go."
Matz is facing a powerful Cubs lineup that’s hit 15 homers in eight playoff games but only five have come with runners on base – none in this series.
Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler went deep off deGrom on Tuesday. Schwarber’s five postseason homers are a Chicago record and put him one back of Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria for the rookie mark established in 2008.
Schwarber’s only two hits in 11 at-bats in the NLCS have been homers after he batted .538 through his first five playoff games.
Slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo and star third baseman Kris Bryant have a combined .169 postseason average while going 4 for 21 in this series.
Offense wasn’t an issue the last time the Cubs handed the ball to Jason Hammel last Tuesday. The right-hander allowed two runs with three walks in three-plus innings while being backed by four runs in a 6-4 win over St. Louis to clinch the NLDS.
"The ‘W’ is the bottom line, and whether it’s seven innings or three innings, like it was for me last time, the game plan is to win," Hammel said. "We’ve entrusted Joe with that ability to make the decision whenever he thinks it’s ready or whatever decision he needs to make at a certain time, that’s his job as manager."
Hammel has failed to complete five innings in three of his past five overall starts, going 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA. He’s 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA in five career starts against the Mets, and he’s allowed Murphy to go 6 for 11 with two doubles.
Curtis Granderson has also had success against Hammel, going 7 for 21 with two homers and two doubles.
A win will give the Mets their first sweep of a best-of-seven series and put them in the World Series for the first time since 2000.