Previewing the NLCS between the Cubs and Mets

The Mets and the Cubs are playing in the National League Championship Series, and if the Cubs win, they'll put an end to a longtime drought of not appearing in the World Series.

The Cubs haven't won a World Series since back-to-back titles in 1907 and 1908 and haven't been to a World Series since 1945, the year they lost to Detroit. The Cubs haven't ever won an NLCS. They are 0-3 when playing for the NL pennant. They lost to the Marlins in 2003, the Giants in 1989 and the Padres in 1984.

The Mets last won the NL pennant when they beat the Cardinals in the NLCS in 2000. Otherwise, they lost in the NLCS to the Dodgers in 1988, the Braves in 1999 and the Cardinals in 2006.

The Mets and Cubs have never played in the postseason, but they did have drama in the former NL East in 1969. That year, the Mets were a 100-to-1 shot to win the World Series and trailed the Cubs by nine games in the division on Aug. 16.

The Cubs, managed by Leo Durocher, had future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins on their team, while the Mets, an expansion team in 1962, were led by young pitchers Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.

The Mets won the division by eight games after finishing 36-11, while the Cubs went 8-17.

The 100-win Mets beat the Braves in the NLCS and then stunned the 109-win Orioles in the World Series.

Here's how the NLCS looks:

Q: The Cubs hit 12 home runs in their first five October games. Is their power for real?

A: Yes it is, although they were helped by a strong wind blowing out in Wrigley Field and a Cardinals pitching staff that was leaving hittable pitches up in the zone. Still, the Cubs finished fifth in home runs in the NL, led by MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo's 31 and Rookie of the Year candidate Kris Bryant's 26. Dexter Fowler had 17 home runs.

Q: There are a lot of rookies in that Cubs lineup. How did they all end up in Chicago?

A: The Cubs have made good trades, but also have done well in the draft. They took Javier Baez at No. 9 in 2011, a year in which the Orioles took Dylan Bundy and the Nationals grabbed Anthony Rendon picking before the Cubs. In that draft, Gerrit Cole was the No. 1 pick by the Pirates. Pitcher Archie Bradley (Arizona) and shortstop Francisco Lindor (Cleveland) also went ahead of Baez. The Cubs chose third baseman Kris Bryant No. 2 in 2013 after Houston picked pitcher Mark Appel. And in 2014, the Cubs took Kyle Schwarber No. 4 ahead of Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon. Another impressive rookie, Jorge Soler, was signed as an amateur free agent.

Q: Where did the Mets get all their young pitching?

A: Like the Cubs, they did well in trades and in the draft. Matt Harvey, the Game 1 starter in the NLCS, and Jacob deGrom, the starter in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, were each drafted in 2010, Harvey in the first round and deGrom in the ninth. Steven Matz was a second-round pick in 2009, while Noah Syndergaard came from Toronto in a trade for R.A. Dickey. Throw in another top-notch prospect, Zack Wheeler, who is out with an injury this season and came in a trade from San Francisco, and the Mets will seem to have staying power.

Q: Cubs closer Hector Rondon isn't the most experienced around. What makes him so tough?

A: Determination, talent and health. He had Tommy John surgery on his elbow in December 2010 and then in 2011, he had another surgery to reattach a screw that had come loose off a bone. Dr. James Andrews told him his chances were 20 percent to have a successful baseball career. Rondon started with Cleveland and was a 2012 Rule 5 draftee. He lost his closing job earlier in the season with the Cubs, but he's come back better than ever. He had 29 saves last year and 34 this season.

Q: What kind of pitcher is Mets closer Jeurys Familia?

A: He's a sinker-slider pitcher with pinpoint control. He was throwing a four-seam fastball earlier in the season, but pretty much ditched that pitch to focus on the other two. Familia, 25, was a set-up man last season and this year, he tied the franchise record with 43 saves, even though he wasn't the Mets' first choice as a closer. They were going to go with Bobby Parnell, but he couldn't recover fast enough from Tommy John. Then Jenrry Mejia took over, but he was suspended for PED use. So Familia was basically the Mets' third choice and now he's one of the best closers in the game.

Q: Every one knows about Jake Arrieta in the Cubs rotation, but will the rest of the rotation give him support?

A: It's a question that's been asked about the Cubs since the All-Star break, given that Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jason Hammel and Dan Haren make up the rest of the rotation. But in the final eight regular-season games, the Cubs rotation showed hope, allowing two runs in 51 1/3 innings. And they survived in the NLDS against St. Louis. Maybe the rotation beyond Arrieta isn't as bad as most thought.

Q: Where would the Cubs be without Fowler?

A: Fowler is the Cubs' leadoff batter and center fielder, a guy who was acquired from Colorado in an offseason trade. Fowler, eligible for free agency after the season, hit .232 with a .308 on-base percentage in the first half, but was strong in the second half, finishing with a .375 on-base percentage and a career-high 17 home runs. In 2014, the Cubs used five different center fielders: Arismendy Alcatara, Emilio Bonifacio, Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney and Justin Ruggiano.

Q: Where would the Mets be without Daniel Murphy?

A: Murphy, the Mets second baseman, is their unsung hero, given he's known best for baserunning blunders. But he hit two home runs against the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and one against Zack Greinke in the NLDS, and his alert steal of third base in the fourth inning of Game 5 was a key to the Mets winning the series. Over his career, he's played in the outfield, and this season, he played third, second and first. Also, he's difficult to strike out. Pitchers struck him out 38 times in 538 plate appearances.

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