Cubs sticking with what worked

The Associated Press
Jay Cohen

CHICAGO—Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Jason Hammel played hacky sack with a baseball, and manager Joe Maddon chatted amiably with his players and staff as he made his way around Wrigley Field yesterday afternoon.
Down 2-0 to the N.Y. Mets in the NL Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs are sticking with what worked for them during a breakthrough season.
“We’ll come out tomorrow [Tuesday], we’ll be ready to play,” Maddon pledged.
“Our guys are always ready to play.”
It might not matter if the Mets continue to pitch as well as they did in New York.
Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard shut down Chicago’s powerful lineup in the first two games of the series, putting New York in an ideal position to make it to the World Series for the first time in 15 years—a quaint little drought compared to the Cubs’ seven mostly empty decades since they last played in the Fall Classic.
According to STATS, the winner of the first two games of a best-of-seven series in the baseball playoffs has advanced 83 percent (63-of-76) of the time—and the Mets have Jacob deGrom heading to the mound for Game 3 tonight.
“We have a lot of confidence,” said manager Terry Collins.
“Any night that he pitches, we’ve got a good chance to win.”
DeGrom is coming off a pair of impressive victories in the NL Division Series, albeit for different reasons.
The 27-year-old was dominant in Game 1 at L.A., striking out 13 while pitching seven scoreless innings in New York’s 3-1 win.
Then he came back for Game 5 and worked six effective innings despite not having his best stuff.
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year matched Bartolo Colon for the team lead with 14 wins this season, but it was the gutsy start against the Dodgers that really cemented his place among the best young pitchers in the game.
“The second game was definitely a battle,” deGrom admitted. “I feel like it was more impressive just because it wasn’t easy.
“When you have your best stuff, it’s a lot easier to pitch.”
While deGrom has struggled in three career starts against Chicago, Harvey and Syndergaard provided a roadmap for the right-hander in the first two games of the series.
The pair pounded the strike zone—getting ahead of the Cubs’ young sluggers and keeping them off balance.
Bryant, who had two hits and drove in Chicago’s only run in Game 2, said everyone on the Cubs just has to stick to their own approach.
“We’ve gotten pretty far just the way we’ve been going,” he reasoned.
“I think it’s a matter of we’ve hit some balls hard and they haven’t been falling,” he noted.
“That’s the way baseball goes sometimes.”
While Harvey, Syndergaard, and deGrom rely on their electric stuff, Kyle Hendricks, the Game 3 starter for Chicago, is more dependent on location for his success.
The Dartmouth graduate threw six shutout innings in each of his last two starts of the season, but was yanked in the fifth inning of his Game 2 start at St. Louis in the division series.
Job No. 1 for Hendricks against New York is stopping Daniel Murphy, who is one away from matching Carlos Beltran’s record of homering in five-straight post-season games.
“He’s swinging a hot bat,” Hendricks said.
“Sometimes the best thing to do is pick your spots,” he noted. “See when guys are on base, when they’re not, when you can pitch around him.
“Regardless, when he comes up, you’ve definitely got to be careful,” Hendricks stressed.
“You can’t make any mistakes with him.”