CHICAGO - The thought would have been laughable a few years ago, when the Mets and Cubs were mired as doormats of the National League.

The conversation has changed.

"You're always curious, obviously, because you feel like you might be playing them in the playoffs," manager Joe Maddon said Monday night, before his Cubs knocked off the Mets, 4-3.

Consider the collection of talent on the field. The teams provided a study in contrasts, though both are rooted in power.

During batting practice, the Cubs' talented young core of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell took turns ripping liners all over the friendly confines.

The middle of their lineup featured Cuban sensation Jorge Soler and Starlin Castro, the three-time All-Star. The oldest of group, Rizzo, is just 25.

Theirs was a rebuilding built around lethal bats.

The Mets, by contrast, restored themselves with their arms. And this series will provide a showcase, with the Mets sending out Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey on consecutive days.

In order, that's the reigning National League rookie of the year, one of the premier pitching prospects in all of baseball, and perhaps this decade's version of Doc Gooden and Tom Seaver.

"This is exactly what we've been building toward," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "These young, powerful arms that know how to pitch, its what every organization tries to do."

Last night, Round 1 went to the Cubs, a fate that became clear early on.

The typically unflappable deGrom spent much of his five innings looking flustered. He surrendered four runs, with three coming on back-to-back homers to Bryant and Rizzo in the first inning.

Last year, deGrom allowed seven homers in 140 1/3 innings. This year, he has given up six in his first 37 2/3.

Command proved to be deGrom's biggest issue. He walked four, a season high. Trouble began immediately when he plunked leadoff man Dexter Fowler on a pitch that ran inside.

Bryant made him pay, swatting a 94 mph fastball for a two-run homer that landed in the newly re-opened leftfield bleachers at the renovated Wrigley Field.

One pitch later, Rizzo pulled another wayward fastball into the wooden planks that will eventually become the new rightfield bleachers.

After deGrom walked Soler on a pitch that wasn't close, Murphy jogged out for a mound conference. The pitcher turned and let out a deep breath. It would indeed be a long night.

In the fourth, deGrom survived a bases-loaded jam, holding the damage to an RBI single by Russell. An inning later, he was done.

The Mets countered in the sixth with back-to-back homers off Cubs lefty Jon Lester, courtesy of Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores. The blasts cut the deficit to one.

But the Mets didn't come any closer thanks to a dose of bad luck.

In the eighth, with Michael Cuddyer on first, Duda ripped a liner that would have been a double had it not been hit right at Rizzo. The Cubs first baseman snagged the drive and touched the bag for a double play.

In the ninth, Starlin Castro dived to rob Dilson Herrera of a single that would have put the tying run in scoring position.

For the sixth time in eight games, the Mets scored three runs or less.

On Tuesday night, the imposing Syndergaard makes his big-league debut after years of hype about his blazing fastball and a curveball that Collins once described as "the hook from hell."

On Wednesday, Harvey's start against this dangerous Cubs lineup will be broadcast on national television, a clash of power against power.

"I'm eager to see it," Maddon said. "Kudos to them for really turning their fate around."