Why the Chicago Cubs Can Beat Jacob deGrom in Game 3
You could say the Chicago Cubs are in a "hair-owing" situation.
I'll log off soon, I promise.
Down 0-2 to the New York Mets in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for Game 3 tonight, facing what seems like a dire situation. In order to prevent falling into a nearly impossible 0-3 hole in the series, Chicago has to beat New York's ace, Jacob deGrom.
Seems like a tall task. After all, deGrom went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA and a 2.70 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in 191 innings this season. His 205 strikeouts were tied for eighth-most in the National League. Opponents hit just .210 against him this year, fifth-best in the NL. He was one of five National League pitchers with a WHIP under one (0.98). And his 27.3% strikeout rate this season was third-best in the NL, behind only Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.
And while the Cubs hitters are also pretty darn good, they have struggled against two of the other young hurlers on the New York staff, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, in the first two games of this series.
Those two pitchers are really good, but deGrom is just a little bit better.
So yes, the odds are long, especially when deGrom will be matched up against a starter not as good as him, Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks is a nice pitcher who went 8-7 with a 3.95 ERA and a 3.36 FIP in 180 innings. His strikeout percentage of 22.6% was 16th-best in the league, and opponents hit .241 against him, also tied for 16th-best in the NL.
Not bad, but not at deGrom's level. But here's why all that might not matter.
The Chicago Cubs have had his number in 2015, getting the better of deGrom in his two starts against them this season.
On May 11 at Wrigley Field, deGrom lasted just five innings and gave up four earned runs on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts. In that game he gave up two home runs, to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
And on July 2 at Citi Field, deGrom went 5 1/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits with two walks and just two strikeouts. He also gave up another longball, to Jonathan Herrera.
In all, deGrom went 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA, lasting 10 1/3 innings and giving up 7 earned runs on 12 hits with 6 walks and 7 strikeouts. The Cubs hit .300 against him, with a .404 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging percentage with those 3 home runs.
One other difference, the Cubs hit 92 homers at home this year, third-most homers at home by any team in the National League. And after frigid temperatures in New York for Games 1 and 2, the weather is supposed to be a bit warmer for Game 3, which should help loosen up the Chicago bats.
The good news for the Mets is that, on paper, this seems like a matchup that should favor deGrom. Chicago relies on the home run to generate much of their offense, and on the season, deGrom gave up just 16 homers, tied for 14th-fewest among 38 qualified NL starters. He does a good job keeping the ball in the park. He's also a premier strikeout pitcher, and as we all know, the Cubs are a whiff-heavy team, striking out an NL-high 1,431 times.
And after blistering Cardinals pitching in the National League Division Series, the Cubs are hitting just .159/.221/.238 in the first two games of this NLCS.
The Mets are probably going to put some runs on the board against Hendricks, and it's likely they'll get into the Chicago bullpen and Jason Hammel sometime early in Game 3. It'll be vital for the Cubs to repeat their early-season success against the Mets tonight if they plan on staying alive in this NLCS.