NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — One down, three to go!
Matt Harvey, Daniel Murphy and the New York Mets have a mind to make some history of their own, the kind that would break Chicago Cubs hearts one more time.
Harvey delivered the big-game performance he’s been pining for, Murphy took his latest star turn on the October stage and the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 4-2 Saturday night in their NL Championship Series opener.
After eliminating rival St. Louis and streaking into New York with 12 wins in 13 games, the power-hitting Cubs and their young sluggers were stopped cold on a chilly night at Citi Field. Trying to end a championship drought that dates to 1908, they remained four wins from winning their first pennant in seven decades.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven set is Sunday night, with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta facing rookie Noah Syndergaard.
Harvey pitched into the eighth for the first time in more than two months, brushing aside all that hoopla last month about his innings limit. Jeurys Familia got four outs for his third playoff save and the Mets jumped ahead in their first NLCS since 2006.
New York is looking to reach the World Series for the first time in 15 years, the longest absence in franchise history but one the Cubs and all their pained, loyal followers would certainly scoff at.
The Mets, meanwhile, ended another drought — they went 0-7 against the Cubs during the regular season.
Murphy connected off losing pitcher Jon Lester for his fourth homer of the playoffs and made a diving play at second base for the final out. Travis d’Arnaud homered off the giant, red Mets apple in straightaway center field, and Curtis Granderson drove in two runs.
Kyle Schwarber was the only one of those rookie boppers who showed off his power for the Cubs, hitting a mammoth homer that chased Harvey with two outs in the eighth and pulled Chicago to 4-2.
Murphy finished off the Dodgers in the deciding game of their Division Series with an all-around offensive performance that inspired a “Mr. October” nod in a tweet from the New York original, Reggie Jackson.
Two nights later, the free-agent-to-be was at it again, getting the Mets off to a rollicking start in their first NLCS since 2006.
Murphy, who set a career high this season with 14 homers, launched another one into the second deck in right field for his fourth of the postseason. By taking Clayton Kershaw (twice), Zack Greinke and Lester deep, the second baseman has tagged $517 million worth of pitchers in these playoffs.
It was Murphy’s third homer against a left-hander in the playoffs — he had one during the regular season. And by connecting in his third consecutive postseason game, he matched a Mets record set by Donn Clendenon in 1969, the year he was World Series MVP.
Murphy, often criticized for his defensive skills, also made a diving stop with a runner on base for the final out.
Granderson’s soft RBI single on an 0-2 pitch from Lester put the Mets up 2-1 in the fifth, and d’Arnaud hit a 431-foot drive to center field in the sixth. Juan Lagares stole third against Lester and scored on Granderson’s sacrifice fly
With that familiar October chill in the New York air for the first time this postseason, Harvey came out firing 95-96 mph heat on a 48-degree night. He threw 23 of his first 29 pitches for strikes and retired his initial 12 batters, six on strikeouts.
The right-hander was rolling along until he plunked Anthony Rizzo in the right arm with an 0-2 pitch to start the fifth. Starlin Castro lined the next offering to deep center field and Gold Glove winner Lagares, wearing a ski mask that covered most of his face, froze for just a beat as the ball sailed over his head for an RBI double that might have been aided by a 15 mph wind.
One out later, Yoenis Cespedes charged Javier Baez’s sharp ground single to left and cut down Castro at the plate by a couple of steps to keep the score tied at 1.
That helped Harvey out of trouble — and he got some good fortune, too.
Chicago hit several line drives that were turned into outs, including one that prompted Harvey to duck quickly out of the way and another that struck the pitcher in the back of the head.
Harvey threw to first for the out and immediately waved off Mets trainer Ray Ramirez, who came out to check anyway with manager Terry Collins before leaving Harvey in the game.
It was his game, indeed.
Cubs: Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA this season and is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts in two playoff starts. No Cubs pitcher has won three games in one postseason. The right-hander had allowed all of four runs in a span of 10 starts before finally getting touched up a bit by St. Louis in Game 3 of the NLDS. He gave up four runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-6 win. Arrieta was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two outings against the Mets this season, striking out 17 in 16 innings. He will be pitching on an extra day of rest.
Mets: Syndergaard lost his major league debut 6-1 to Arrieta at Wrigley Field in May. “I remember I fell behind a few batters. Still kind of was a lot to take in. I just feel like a completely different pitcher now,” he said Saturday. New York was initially unsure if the big right-hander would be ready to start Game 2 of the NLCS after warming up several times in the bullpen and throwing 17 pitches in his first career relief appearance Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. “My body and my arm have never felt better,” Syndergaard said.
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