NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Mets struck early, using a combination of pitching and power to post a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Daniel Murphy blasted a two-run homer to cap a three-run first inning off Cubs ace Jake Arrieta that was all the Mets and starter Noah Syndergaard needed on a cold night at Citi Field.
It was Murphy’s fourth successive post-season game with a home run and his fifth overall in the playoffs, tying Mike Piazza for the franchise record.
Mets starter Syndergaard touched 99 mph with his fastball and kept the Cubs off balance with curveballs and change-ups to rack up nine strikeouts and yield one run on three hits and one walk in 5-2/3 innings for the win.
“They got on us very quickly, good at-bats by the top three guys culminated with the home run,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “Then you’ve got to give a lot of credit to their young pitcher. Syndergaard really was very good today.”
Arrieta, who was virtually un-hittable in the second half of the season as he went 12-1 after the All-Star break to finish with a 22-6 record, allowed the damage right out of the gate.
Curtis Granderson led off the first with a sharp single to right and David Wright followed with a booming RBI-double over the head of center fielder Dexter Fowler.
Murphy, who also homered in the first inning in Saturday’s win, turned on an inside breaking ball from Arrieta and sent it into the right field seats.
Arrieta put the blame on himself.
“I put us in a pretty big hole there in the first and it was a little too hard to overcome.” said Arrieta, who did not have top speed on his fastball and resorted more to secondary pitches.
“The biggest part of the night was the two-run (homer). The mistake to him was really the turning point of the game.”
The Mets added an insurance run in the third on an infield single by Yoenis Cespedes that scored Granderson, who walked and stole second and third.
Syndergaard, 23, gave way to reliever Jonathon Niese after giving up a RBI-double off the left field fence by Kris Bryant in the sixth that made it 4-1. The left-hander struck out Anthony Rizzo to end the threat.
Relievers Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard both provided a scoreless inning before Jeurys Familia got his fourth save of the post-season.
The series shifts to Chicago for Game Three on Tuesday, with the Cubs scheduled to start Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA) against New York’s Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54).
“They play great in Chicago,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “It’s a park built for them, so it should be a great series continued.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury