The Cubs swept all seven regular season games from the Mets. But that was before the Mets added Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Michael Conforto to the offense, and pitchers like Long Island's Steven Matz emerged.
Mets third baseman David Wright and catcher Travis d'Arnaud also missed all seven games with injuries.
The Mets go four-deep with young studs Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. DeGrom beat the Dodgers' two aces -- Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke -- in the NLDS. The Cubs, much like the Dodgers, have two superb pitchers at the top of the rotation and two question marks. Lester will start Game 1. Jake Arrieta, a 22-game winner during the regular season, will start Game 2. Arrieta shut down the Pirates in the National League wild-card game to get the Cubs to the NLDS. He also picked up a win against the Cardinals, but got knocked around. Cubs manager Joe Maddon said righthanders Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks will pitch Games 3 and 4, order to be determined.
The Mets pretty much only have faith in Jeurys Familia among their relievers right now. Bartolo Colon emerged during the NLDS as Terry Collins' second-most trusted arm in the bullpen. Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles and Jon Niese are also in the Mets' pen. They were all bypassed for Syndergaard in Game 5. The Cubs are also using former starters in Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood, and Clayton Richard to augment setup man Pedro Strop and closer Hector Rondon.
Travis d'Arnaud had four RBIs in the NLDS, including a huge sacrifice fly in Game 5. Miguel Montero went hitless in the Cubs' four-game NLDS win over the Cardinals.
Anthony Rizzo is the heart and soul of the young Cubs' offense. The Mets' Lucas Duda was in a deep, deep funk during the NLDS and could be benched in Game 1 for Michael Cuddyer. Duda was just 2-for-18 in the NLDS against the Dodgers.
SECOND BASEDaniel Murphy was the Mets' breakout star in the NLDS with his home-run hitting and daring baserunning. Murphy hit .333 with three home runs and five RBIs against the Dodgers. Murphy's home run off Zack Greinke in the sixth inning of Game 5 proved to be the difference. Starlin Castro, who lost his shortstop job midseason, performed admirably at second.
David Wright and Kris Bryant both struggled in the NLDS. Wright was 1-for-16 against the Dodgers and Bryant is hitting just .150 in the playoffs. Both are capable of breaking out at any time in the NLCS. It's Wright's experience vs. Bryant's prodigious talent.
Two injury replacements: Wilmer Flores filled in for Ruben Tejada after Chase Utley's leg-breaking takeout slide in Game 2. Javier Baez had four hits in five at-bats after Addison Russell went down with a hamstring strain. Russell will miss the NLCS.
The Mets will be able to start rookie Michael Conforto in leftfield and Yoenis Cespedes in center to join Curtis Granderson against the Cubs' righthanders. Juan Lagares likely will start in center against Jon Lester with Cespedes in left because of Michael Cuddyer's suspect defense. Granderson had a big NLDS against the Dodgers, hitting .389 with five RBIs. Cespedes hit two home runs in the NLDS. Rookie Kyle Schwarber hit a long home run in Game 4 of the NLDS that Cubs fans are still talking about. Schwarber, Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler have combined for seven home runs and 12 RBIs in five postseason games so far. Schwarber is hitting .538 in five postseason games, and Soler is hitting .571 (4-for-7) in four games.
Joe Maddon has a deep and versatile bench featuring Chris Coghlan, Tommy La Stella, Chris Denorfia and Austin Jackson, and he isn't afraid to use them. The Mets have Cuddyer, Lagares (when he doesn't start), Kelly Johnson, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Tejada's replacement, Matt Reynolds. If Reynolds plays, he will be making his major-league debut. Juan Uribe is injured and expected to miss the NLCS.
Joe Maddon came to Chicago with a five-year, $25-million contract and proclaimed that he wasn't going to wait 'til next year to get the Cubs to the playoffs. Maddon was Terry Collins' bench coach with the Angels in the late 1990s and the two are close friends. Collins doesn't have Maddon's job security -- he's still unsigned for next season -- but he's got the full support of the players, if not the entire fan base.