The Mets are chocolate and the Cubs are peanut butter: We’ve got a surplus of young pitching and not enough bats; they’ve got a surplus of young bats and not enough pitching. So plenty of baseball matchmakers want to know what, exactly, is taking so long: Send some prospects from Column Mets west while some prospects from Column Cubs go east, and both teams have theoretically solved their problems and will be ready to reclaim their past glories. (With, perhaps, an interesting rivalry between What Could Have Beens.)
Honestly, it sounds like a perfectly good idea to me: Bring on Starlin Castro, or Javier Baez, or Addison Russell, or Arismendy Alcantara, or Jorge Soler, or some other marvelously monikered Cubs minor-leaguer whose name hasn’t penetrated my consciousness yet. How about Jonathon Niese for Castro in a trade of talented but problematic big leaguers with team-friendly contracts, plus a couple of Mets pitching prospects for one of the outfielders? Theo? Sandy? I’m conferencing you together; lemme know when you’ve got something to announce.
The thing is, the Cubs’ hitters haven’t reached the promised land quite yet: Anthony Rizzo and Castro are here, but Baez’s still learning to tame his big swing, and the minor-league studs are close but haven’t arrived. You saw it tonight, as a quartet of Mets fireballers fanned no less than 14 Cubs.
But we know what that’s like, because the Mets’ young pitchers aren’t quite here yet either. Zack Wheeler recorded five of his first six outs on strikeouts, riding his near-100 MPH fastball. But his pitch count crept ever higher, as it does, and with two out in the sixth he walked Chris Coghlan on four straight wayward pitches and was excused further duty, having thrown a career-high 120 pitches but still winding up short of the fabled seventh inning. His final line was very 2014 Wheeler: two runs allowed over 6 2/3, 10 Ks, four walks, and a very impressive performance one couldn’t help thinking should have been even better.
Wheeler left up a run, a thin margin of error supplied by Eric Campbell‘s three-run blast; fortunately for him, the Mets’ young relievers picked up where he left off. Vic Black erased Baez on a strikeout; Jeurys Familia had one of his most impressive outings of the year, throwing bowling-ball sinkers; and Jenrry Mejia recorded the save on behalf of Juan Lagares, who continues to spoil us. Ryan Sweeney opened the ninth by whacking a ball up the gap in right-center, a sure double that would have left the Mets staring down the barrel of a tie game and another trip into extra innings. My first thought was unprintable, but it was followed rapidly by asking, “Where’s Lagares?” The answer, happily, was that he was streaking over from left-center, his speed and phenomenal first-step instincts allowing him to catch up with Sweeney’s drive with apparent and utterly deceptive ease.
It was a good night for young Mets pitchers and a frustrating one for young Cubs hitters, but we’ve seen the reverse before and probably will again at some point in this series. Maybe we can help each other out later this month or in the offseason; until then, well, we’re giddy with the same sense of promise and equally frustrated that it’s arriving in fits and starts.
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