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Daniel Murphy helps power Mets past Cubs and Jake Arrieta for 2-0 NLCS lead

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28)

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) high-fives third baseman David Wright (5) at home plate after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning during Game 2 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. Credit: Newsday / William Perlman

Etched into the mountainside are the faces of doom. They belong to the Dodgers' duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and Sunday night's opponent, Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. Together, they comprise the top three pitchers in the National League.

These Mets, however, have become trophy hunters. And in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, they again seemed unfazed by the monumental task before them, merrily spray-painting mustaches and funny glasses on the league's Mount Rushmore of nastiness.

"We feel like we can beat anyone at any given point," Travis d'Arnaud said after a 4-1 victory that gave the Mets a 2-0 series lead against the Cubs.

The Mets can't be blamed for projecting a sense of invincibility. After all, they have earned that privilege in these playoffs, beating Kershaw, Greinke and now Arrieta.

On a frigid night at Citi Field, Daniel Murphy hit his fifth home run of the postseason, hastening Arrieta's exit after five innings.

Noah Syndergaard overwhelmed the Cubs' power-packed lineup, holding them to one run in 52/3 innings. With a fastball in the high 90s, the righthander struck out nine. He departed ahead 4-1, the only black mark coming on Kris Bryant's two-out RBI double in the sixth.

The Mets' middle relievers, the roster's Achilles' heel, built a steady bridge to closer Jeurys Familia. Lefty Jonathon Niese struck out the dangerous Anthony Rizzo to end the sixth. Addison Reed breezed through the seventh. Tyler Clippard worked the eighth.

Each has been marginalized this month, but together, they gave Familia the ball for his fourth save of the postseason.

"My confidence is growing and growing," said Familia, who has not allowed a run in 72/3 innings in this postseason.

Curtis Granderson, a steady force in the postseason, robbed Chris Coghlan of a homer with a perfectly timed leaping grab at the rightfield wall. He also singled and scored in the first inning and then walked in the third, swiped second and third, and scored on Yoenis Cespedes' infield single.

"This could be a huge turning point for us,'' manager Terry Collins said before the game. "If we can beat Arrieta, it puts us in pretty good water.''

Now the Mets find themselves swimming in good vibes. Since the start of the wild-card era in 1995, four other teams opened a 2-0 lead at home in the NLCS. All four won the pennant. And since the NLCS went to a best-of-seven in 1985, nine of the 10 teams to take a 2-0 lead reached the World Series.

The Mets wasted little time jumping on Arrieta, who had not allowed three runs in the first inning since July 2010. After Granderson led off with a single, David Wright delivered the first cut, lining a double over the head of centerfielder Dexter Fowler for a 1-0 lead.

Murphy followed with his two-run blast, tying Mike Piazza for the most postseason homers in club history. The Mets' breakout star of the playoffs raised his right fist while rounding first base after his two-run shot landed just inside the rightfield foul pole.

Moments later, at the urging of the orange-towel-waving mob of 44,502, Murphy ducked out of the dugout for a curtain call.

"You never think you're going to be fortunate enough to be on a ballclub like this," he said. "You dream of it, to be able to go to work with 24 men in here that are absolutely awesome guys."

It has been this kind of October for the Mets, who have turned themselves into giant-slayers. The Mets entered play hitting only .218 in the postseason, the lowest mark of the four teams still standing. Yet Collins resisted the idea of juggling the lineup, convinced that the numbers reflected the competition.

"We're doing OK,'' he said. "So why would I upend anything right now? I think I'll just continue to press forward and continue to hope that some balls start falling in and we start hitting.''

Collins was rewarded again. In the NLDS against the Dodgers, the Mets faced Kershaw and Greinke four times in five games, hanging a loss on each one. Against Arrieta Sunday night, they completed the stunning trifecta.

"We've beaten some of the best the game has to offer,'' said Wright, whose team stands two wins away from its first National League pennant since 2000.

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