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Mets take 3-0 NLCS lead over Cubs

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28)

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) reacts after his solo home run in the third inning during Game 3 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

CHICAGO -- It was as if the iconic ivy vines covering the bricks at this perfect little patch of green had come to life, swallowing Wilmer Flores' sure run-scoring triple past a diving Jorge Soler, and depriving the Mets of a critical tack-on run.

For a fleeting moment Tuesday night, 42,231 at Wrigley Field held out hope. Again, Daniel Murphy homered. Again, Jacob deGrom shook off trouble. And again, the Cubs trailed the Mets. Perhaps, they thought, the ivy had turned the tide of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

But not even fate could derail the Mets, who by virtue of a 5-2 victory, moved just one win away from a four-game sweep and their first National League pennant in 15 years.

"It's getting exciting," third-base coach Tim Teufel said, to no one in particular, as he walked out of a visitors clubhouse that could be as little as 24 hours away from a champagne soaking.

Murphy continued the run of his life with his sixth postseason homer, a career club record. DeGrom throttled the Cubs and allowed two runs in seven innings, extending what has been a dominant stretch by the Mets' dynamic young arms.

And the Cubs stubbed their own toes. The Mets scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the sixth, when Yoenis Cespedes scrambled home on a ball in the dirt that struck out Michael Conforto.

One inning later, a rally powered by a pair of sloppy defensive plays gave the Mets two crucial insurance runs. Tyler Clippard worked a scoreless eighth and Jeurys Familia notched his fifth save and reached 8 2/3 scoreless innings. With rain falling, their victory completed, the Mets shook hands in a reserved celebration.

Said first baseman Lucas Duda: "We haven't won anything, yet."

Of course, the prospects are bright. For the Cubs to reach their first World Series since 1945, they would have to join the 2004 Red Sox, who knocked off the Yankees, as the only team to erase a 3-0 deficit in the baseball postseason.

"One New York team has blown a 3-0 lead," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters. "Let's make it the other New York team."

Long Island's Steven Matz takes the ball in Game 4 Wednesday night. But even if the lefty fails, the Mets have Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and deGrom lined up to pitch on regular rest. Mets pitching has a combined 2.79 ERA, the lowest of any team left in the playoffs.

"Anything's possible," pitching coach Dan Warthen said, smiling. "But we certainly like our chances."

A boisterous crowd of 42,231 were hoping that the Mets might finally blink.

Through five innings, the teams played to a 2-2 tie. Cespedes ripped a run-scoring double and Murphy homered in his fifth straight playoff game.

"I wish I could explain it," Murphy said. "I can't."

The Cubs responded with solo shots from Kyle Schwarber and Soler.

In the sixth, Cespedes singled and moved to second on Lucas Duda's first sacrifice bunt since 2011. Cespedes then swiped third, and scored when Trevor Cahill struck out Conforto on a ball that got past catcher Miguel Montero.

That's when Wrigley's ivy sprang to life. Flores ripped a two-out shot past Soler, who whiffed on his all-or-nothing dive. Conforto could have scored from first base running backward with a billy goat strapped to his back. But the ball bounded to the wall and lodged in the ivy, a ground-rule double that stranded Conforto at third.

"We weren't going to take our foot off the throttle," Conforto said.

For the Cubs, the seventh inning brought doom. The Mets scored twice, aided by a Kris Bryant double clutch at third base, allowing Murphy to reach base and eventually score. Another run came in on Schwarber's misread in leftfield, which let Cespedes' drive to fall and allowed Wright to score.

"Every little play in the series, especially in the postseason, means a lot," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I tell you what, my guys are playing hard."


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