Murphy HRs again; Mets beat Arrieta, Cubs for 2-0 NLCS lead
NEW YORK (AP) - Say this for Daniel Murphy and the New York Mets: They have their October formula down and are sticking with it.
Murphy homered off yet another ace to provide an early cushion for Noah Syndergaard, and the Mets breezed past Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs 4-1 Sunday night for a 2-0 lead in a surprisingly one-sided NL Championship Series.
Power, pitching, plus some dazzling defense - just like the Amazin' Mets of 1969.
''We've beaten some of the best the game has to offer,'' Mets captain David Wright said.
Baseball's most dominant pitcher since the All-Star break, Arrieta had not even settled in when Murphy homered for the fourth straight game, a two-run drive just inside the right-field pole in a three-run first inning.
''We're having a whole bunch of fun right now,'' said Murphy, who homered in the first inning for the second straight game and seems to have a reserved star-of-the-game seat in the interview room.
Given the quick lead on a chilly night, Syndergaard kept the bats of Chicago's young sluggers on ice with shutout ball into the sixth.
Curtis Granderson robbed Chris Coghlan of a likely home run with a leaping grab at the center-field wall, swiped a pair of bases and scored two runs for the Mets.
After beating Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and Arrieta, the Mets are two wins from reaching their first World Series since 2000.
New York starts NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Rookie left-hander Steven Matz is set for Game 4, followed by Game 1 winner Matt Harvey on Thursday, if needed.
''They don't have the credentials that Kershaw and Greinke and Lester and Arrieta have, but they're going to be good pitchers,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ''We think we can stack up with anybody.''
Chicago goes with Kyle Hendricks in Game 3. If the long-downtrodden Cubs are to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945, they must first force the best-of-seven NLCS back to Citi Field next weekend.
''We're all about one-game winning streaks,'' Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. ''I know it's psychobabble 101, but it actually works.''
After homering off Kershaw, Greinke and Lester, Murphy added his fifth home run of the postseason, giving him eight RBIs in seven games. He's one from matching Carlos Beltran's record of homering in five straight postseason games.
''He's about as locked in as I've seen a hitter,'' Wright said.
Long, blond locks flowing out the back of his cap, Syndergaard seems to be taking on a bit of Harvey's cockiness. He gained the nickname Thor - the Norse god known for fierce storms - after he tweeted a photo of himself in costume doing squats on Halloween two years ago.
Ahead of his start against the Cubs, Syndergaard changed the photo atop his Twitter page to a shot featuring lightning striking Chicago's famous Willis Tower.
Having made the first relief appearance of his big league career in Game 5 against the Dodgers, Syndergaard came out throwing darts at up to 99 mph until the sixth, when Dexter Fowler singled and scored on Kris Byrant's two-out double off the left-field wall.
''It makes pitching a lot more easy when you go out there and offense puts a three-spot on one of the best pitchers in the game right now,'' Syndergaard said.
Jon Niese came in and struck out Anthony Rizzo. Chicago didn't advance another runner past first.
Syndergaard allowed three hits, struck out nine and walked one. Jeurys Familia's fourth postseason save finished a five-pitcher five-hitter and sent the Cubs to consecutive losses for the first time since they dropped three in a row from Sept. 23-26. Arrieta had not lost since July 25.
It was 45 degrees at game time with an 18 mph northwest wind. Some players wore balaclavas that covered their faces, including Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who played on his 30th birthday.
Arrieta, who wore short sleeves, had not given up a first-inning run in 25 consecutive starts since May 29. With his velocity down slightly, he found himself trailing after nine pitches and down 3-0 after 13.
Granderson singled through the shift into right field for his ninth hit in 22 postseason at-bats. Wright, in a 1-for-19 playoff slide, drove a fastball on a hop off the center-field wall with Granderson running.
Murphy hit an 0-1 pitch about 10 feet to the foul side of the right-field pole, then reached down for a shin-high curveball and with a one-handed swing sent it just inside the pole. Murphy raised his right fist in triumph while rounding first base and took a curtain call after a prolonged ovation.
''The ambush early got us,'' Maddon said.
Granderson made his dashing defensive play in the second, leaping to get his glove to the top of the 8-foot wall just to the right of straightaway center.
''I was able to time it up, reel it in,'' Granderson said.
He walked leading off the third and stole second as Wright struck out. After Murphy was walked, Granderson swiped third, too - at Murphy's suggestion. He came home when Cespedes grounded to the shortstop hole for an infield single.
''Two tough games here, but the series is not over,'' Arrieta said. ''We feel good where we're at.''
Cubs: Hendricks (8-7) did not get a decision in the Division Series against St. Louis, allowing three runs and four hits in 4 2-3 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Mets: DeGrom (14-8) got the wins in Games 1 and 5 against the Dodgers. He is 0-2 in three career starts against the Cubs.
The Mets stayed with their alternate blue jerseys after winning in them in Game 3 of the Division Series and the NLCS opener. New York lost in its traditional pinstripes in Game 4 against the Dodgers.