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Mets-Cubs NLCS is truly one for the ages

The New York Mets celebrate their National League

The New York Mets celebrate their National League Division Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Oct. 15, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Mets and Cubs would get here eventually, this much was expected. At some point, both organizations would be rewarded for hoarding young talent, whether by acquiring or developing their own core pieces for the future.

Perhaps, the only surprise is that each has reached this point ahead of schedule. At least, that's the vibe going into Game 1 of Saturday night's National League Championship Series at Citi Field, when two of the youngest, most talented teams face off for the pennant.

The Mets and Cubs reached the brink of the World Series by following divergent philosophies. For much of the winter, the organizations were linked as potential trade partners, with the Cubs stocked with bats and the Mets with arms. Nothing materialized, though neither club has any regrets.

"They're probably happy they didn't make a trade," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "And we're happy we didn't make a trade."

The Cubs staked their renaissance on transformational bats such as Kris Bryant, 23, and Anthony Rizzo, 25, a duo who combined for 57 homers and 200 RBIs. Perhaps, no two players better represent the kind of offensive firepower the Cubs have amassed under club president Theo Epstein.

"Anybody at this point this far into the playoffs, you're always finding threats and reasons why they got here," said Matt Harvey, the Mets' Game 1 starter. "And obviously their offense has shown that that's mostly the reason why they are."

The Mets, meanwhile, bet their future on a collection of arms who have further distinguished themselves in the playoffs. Those riches will be on display in the best-of-seven NLCS, when manager Terry Collins runs out four pitchers whose fastballs sit in the mid-90s or above.

"Their pitching staff speaks for itself as far as the youth and the talent there," said Jon Lester, the Cubs' Game 1 starter.

Harvey will be followed by Noah Syndergaard in Game 2, though his status is tentative at best.

Though the 22-year-old Syndergaard pitched just one inning out of the bullpen in Thursday's clinching game of the NLDS against the Dodgers, he warmed up several times in the bullpen, with Jacob deGrom fighting off trouble through six excruciating innings.

"You could almost say he got ready four times," Collins said of Syndergaard. "That could have almost been five innings of work because I knew he threw over 100 pitches warming up. So if he's still tender tomorrow, he's probably not going to be the Game 2 guy."

If Syndergaard's not ready to go, Long Island's Steven Matz could make the start in Game 2 against Jake Arrieta. The Cubs ace and 22-game winner emerged with the victory in his previous two starts against the Mets, when he surrendered just two earned runs in 16 innings.

While the Mets boast plenty of firepower on the mound, the Cubs ranked among one of the best fastball-hitting teams in all of baseball, according to the site But whatever the order of the rotation, Alderson said he has seen growth from the group since the last time the Mets tangled with the Cubs.

The Mets dropped all seven meetings to the Cubs during the regular season. In those meetings, the last of which was July 2, the Mets were outscored 27-11.

But since then, the Mets have revamped their own offense, adding Yoenis Cespedes and welcoming back a healthy David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud. And yes, Alderson said, even the Mets' dynamic young pitching has taken a forward step in development.

Taken together, the Mets hope it's enough to change the dynamic against the Cubs.

"I don't think that 0-7 registers much concern on the part of our players," Alderson said. "But we certainly have to turn that around. We'd like to be 4-10 at the end of this with the Cubs."


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