A look at the best-of-seven National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Saturday, at New York (8:07 p.m.); Game 2, Sunday, at New York (8:07 p.m.); Game 3, Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Chicago (TBA); Game 4, Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Chicago (TBA); x-Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 22, at Chicago (TBA); x-Game 6, Saturday, Oct. 24, at New York (TBA); x-Game 7, Sunday, Oct. 25, at New York (TBA). (All games on TBS).
Season Series: Cubs won 7-0.
Cubs: CF Dexter Fowler (.250, 17 HRs, 46 RBIs), LF Kyle Schwarber (.246, 16, 43), 3B Kris Bryant (.275, 26, 99), 1B Anthony Rizzo (.278, 31, 101), 2B Starlin Castro (.265, 11, 69), RF Jorge Soler (.262, 10, 47), C Miguel Montero (.248, 15, 53) or David Ross (.176, 1, 9), SS Javier Baez (.289, 1, 4).
Mets: RF Curtis Granderson (.259, 26, 70, 98 runs, 91 BBs, 11 SBs, 151 Ks), 3B David Wright (.289, 5, 17 in 152 ABs), 2B Daniel Murphy (.281, 14, 73, 38 2Bs), CF Yoenis Cespedes (.291, 35, 105, 101 runs, 42 2Bs with Tigers and Mets), 1B Lucas Duda (.244, 27, 73, 33 2Bs, 138 Ks), C Travis d'Arnaud (.268, 12, 41 in 239 ABs), LF Michael Conforto (.270, 9, 26 in 174 ABs) or Michael Cuddyer (.259, 10, 41), SS Wilmer Flores (.263, 16, 59).
Cubs: LH Jon Lester (11-12, 3.34 ERA, 207 Ks), RH Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77, 236 Ks, 48 BBs), RH Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95), RH Jason Hammel (10-7, 3.74).
Mets: RH Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71, 188 Ks, 189 1-3 IP), RH Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24, 166 Ks, 150 IP), RH Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA, 205 Ks, 191 IP), LH Steven Matz (4-0, 2.27 in 6 starts).
Cubs: RH Hector Rondon (6-4, 1.67, 30/34 saves), RH Justin Grimm (3-5, 1.99, 3 saves), RH Pedro Strop (2-6, 2.91, 3 saves), LH Travis Wood (5-4, 3.84, 4 saves), RH Fernando Rodney (7-5, 4.74, 16 saves with Mariners and Cubs), RH Trevor Cahill (1-3, 5.40 with Braves and Cubs), LH Clayton Richard (4-2, 3.83).
Mets: RH Jeurys Familia (2-2, 1.85, 43/48 saves, 76 games, 86 Ks, 78 IP), RH Tyler Clippard (5-4, 2.92, 19 saves with Athletics and Mets), RH Addison Reed (3-3, 3.38, 4 saves with Diamondbacks and Mets), RH Bartolo Colon (14-13, 4.16, 217 hits allowed, 24 BBs, 194 2-3 IP in 33 games, 31 starts), RH Hansel Robles (4-3, 3.67, 61 Ks, 54 IP), LH Jonathon Niese (9-10, 4.13 in 33 games, 29 starts, 176 2-3 IP), RH Erik Goeddel (1-1, 2.43), RH Carlos Torres (5-6, 4.68) or LH Sean Gilmartin (3-2, 2.67).
These teams have never met in the playoffs, though they squared off in some memorable pennant races when they were NL East rivals (1969, `84, `89). ... During half a decade of steady losing, both big-market clubs stocked up on prospects. Cubs executive Theo Epstein rebuilt around young sluggers, while Mets general manager Sandy Alderson focused on power pitching. Now, it's Chicago's bats against New York's arms in an NLCS loaded with young talent. At least that's the storyline. The Cubs actually had a lower ERA than the Mets this year, while New York had more homers and a higher slugging percentage. ... The Cubs have won a team-record nine consecutive meetings. They dominated the season series, taking all seven games by a combined score of 27-11. It was the first time the Mets were swept in a season series of at least seven games - and the first time Chicago did it since 1885 against the Buffalo Bisons. But the last meeting was July 2, weeks before the Mets overhauled their struggling offense. Since then, New York has added Cespedes, Conforto, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, while d'Arnaud and Wright have returned from injuries. ... Chicago swept a four-game series against the Mets from May 11-14 at Wrigley Field, winning three by one run. Lester beat deGrom 4-3, and Syndergaard lost his major league debut 6-1 to Arrieta. When the teams played three at Citi Field, it was the Cubs who provided the lights-out pitching. New York was shut out twice and managed one run in 29 innings, one of the lowest points of its season. Arrieta defeated deGrom 6-1, and Hendricks edged Niese 1-0. Lester pitched 7 scoreless innings in a no-decision. He is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in 3 career starts against the Mets. ... Arrieta was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 2 outings against the Mets this season, striking out 17 in 16 innings. Meanwhile, deGrom went 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA against the Cubs. He walked 6 in 10 1-3 innings and gave up 3 home runs. ... Both teams are missing their starting shortstop. Baez takes over for Chicago rookie Addison Russell, who strained his left hamstring in the NLDS vs. St. Louis. Baez, who hit a key 3-run homer in the series, has big-time power but also strikes out a lot. Flores stepped in for New York when Ruben Tejada broke his right leg on a late takeout slide by Chase Utley in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. ... Uribe missed the NLDS with a chest cartilage injury, eliminating an experienced right-handed thumper on the New York bench with an impressive October resume. ... Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares often starts in center field when the Mets face a lefty, shifting Cespedes to left. Lagares was 3 for 7 with 2 doubles and 3 runs in the NLDS. Cuddyer was benched after struggling in the series opener. ... Rizzo is 3 for 18 (.167) in the NL playoffs with 2 home runs, but the All-Star slugger is a .300 hitter with 5 homers and 11 RBIs in 25 career games against the Mets. ... New York has home-field advantage in this series despite finishing with the worst record among the five NL playoff teams. ... Cubs manager Joe Maddon took over the Angels on an interim basis when current Mets skipper Terry Collins resigned in Anaheim on Sept. 3, 1999.
Cubs: In their initial season under Maddon, the streaking Cubs (97-65) made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 by earning the second NL wild card. Paced by a young and powerful lineup, they're trying to reach their first World Series in 70 years and end a championship drought that dates to 1908. Chicago took the first step with a 4-0 win at Pittsburgh in the wild-card game. Arrieta tossed a 4-hitter in yet another dominant start, and the Cubs won a playoff game for the first time since famously squandering a 3-1 lead in the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. Then the Cubs beat NL Central champion St. Louis in 4 games in the NLDS, clinching a postseason series at Wrigley Field for the first time. They have eliminated the majors' top two teams and won 12 of 13 overall. ... Chicago has 12 homers in 5 playoff games. The Cubs are the first team to have four players 23 or younger go deep in one postseason, according to STATS. ... Chicago could get reliever Jason Motte back for the NLCS. Motte, who has been out with a strained right shoulder, has eight saves in eight chances with a 2.08 ERA in 19 career postseason appearances. ... Playoff baseball has returned to venerable Wrigley Field, the quaint, old ballpark undergoing a multiyear renovation. It now features a massive video board above the left-field bleachers and a smaller one in right. ... With Maddon keeping things loose and young players meshing with veterans, Chicago is the hottest team in baseball after going 46-19 over its final 65 regular-season games beginning July 27. The 46 victories were the most in the majors during that span. ... Chicago had the best road record in the majors (48-33) and was only slightly better at home (49-32). ... Chicago pitchers set a National League record with 1,431 strikeouts, breaking the mark set by the 2003 Cubs (1,404).
Mets: After six straight losing seasons, the Mets (90-72) finally turned it around. The NL East champs rebuilt around prized young pitchers such as Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Familia - the electric arms that kept New York within striking distance this season until the front office completely transformed an anemic offense in late July. ... On the same day Conforto was called up directly from Double-A, professional bats Uribe and Johnson were acquired from Atlanta in a deal that added much-needed depth. A week later, Cespedes was obtained at the July 31 trade deadline and d'Arnaud came off the disabled list. Flores hit a game-winning homer against Washington, two nights after tearing up on the field when he thought he'd been traded. That made him an instant fan favorite, and the Mets took off. Cuddyer and Wright returned from injuries in August, and suddenly New York had a potent lineup to go with all that pitching. One of the worst offenses in the majors became one of the very best from July 25 on. ... Two pivotal sweeps of Washington helped the Mets overtake the heavily favored Nationals in the NL East and then pull away in September for their sixth division title. Back in the playoffs for the first time in nine years, the Mets are trying to end a World Series drought that dates to 2000 - the longest in franchise history. ... A five-game losing streak during the final week of the season cost New York home-field advantage in the NLDS against Los Angeles. But the Mets won twice at Dodger Stadium to take the series in five games. They beat Clayton Kershaw in the opener and Zack Greinke in the finale, both on the road behind deGrom and Familia. The closer retired all 16 batters he faced in the series. ... Murphy hit 3 homers off the two Cy Young Award winners, including a go-ahead shot in Game 5. He carried the offense in that one, alertly stealing an uncovered third base when Duda walked, and earned a ''Mr. October'' nod in a tweet from the New York original, Reggie Jackson. ... Cespedes homered twice in the series and drove in 4 runs. Granderson had 5 RBIs in Game 3. Duda batted .111 with 11 strikeouts in 18 at-bats. Wright was 1 for 16 with 7 Ks, 5 walks and an important 2-run single.
- Youth Served. Both teams feature rookies and other youngsters playing crucial roles, but neither got rattled one bit in the early stages of the playoffs. Now they have some October experience to draw on, and poise under pressure remains a major theme for all the players in their early-to-mid-20s.
- Bench Bosses. Maddon and Collins are leading contenders for NL Manager of the Year. The colorful Maddon is an unconventional free spirit who brought in a magician to entertain players in New York this season and arranged for a petting zoo at Wrigley Field. He's also an expert at handling his bullpen. Collins, at 66 the oldest skipper in the majors, is managing in the postseason for the first time. He made several tough decisions that paid off in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, and Alderson called it a masterful job.