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Cubs must win with Jake Arrieta in Game 2 against the Mets

Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs throws

Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Wrigley Field on Oct. 12, 2015, in Chicago. Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

Noah Syndergaard and Jake Arrieta both grew up in Texas, which would appear to make the frosty conditions forecast for Game 2 of the NLCS Sunday night at Citi Field a wash as a factor.

But not so fast! Syndergaard's ancestors are from Scandinavia, as is the mythological Thor for whom he is nicknamed. So there's that. Advantage Mets.

In terms of pitching matchups, though, the edge here goes to the Cubs' 22-game winner, no-hitter-thrower and Cy Young hopeful, which is no disrespect to young Mr. Thor.

Arrieta has had a spectacular season. Therein lies the critical importance of this game, even more so than most Game 2s.

In short: If the Cubs lose with Arrieta on the hill and fall behind two games to none, they likely will be kaput, their century-plus wait for a world championship still on hold.

Normally a 2-0 deficit in a seven-game series is surmountable. The Mets did it in the '86 World Series - and they lost the first two at home! But not this time.

Game 3 at Wrigley should be quite a scene in the stands and outside the park, but on the mound the Mets will throw Jacob deGrom and the Cubs some guy whose name I forget.

In Game 4, it will be the Mets' Steven Matz - who is from Long Island, as you might have read - against either Jon Lester on short rest or some other guy whose name I forget.

The Mets would like to win Game 2, naturally. The Cubs must win Game 2, period.

The good news for the Cubbies is that, well, they have Arrieta.

"That would relax a manager in a heartbeat, wouldn't it?" the Cubs' Joe Maddon said before Game 1 of having the luxury of Arrieta to the hill.

After the Mets had won, 4-2, and that importance only was magnified, he said this:

"Jake has had a wonderful season. From my perspective, putting that name on the lineup card is always a fun thing to do. If you talk to any of our guys, we feel good about anyone going out to the mound. But it's nice to have Jake."

Arrieta's development has wowed baseball people given that he was not the immediate sensation as a young pitcher that guys such as Syndergaard and Matt Harvey have been.

"His stuff's always been really good," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But his location has just been off the charts."

The Mets have faced Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke or Jon Lester in five of their six playoff games to date. What's another star hurler at this stage?

"Just another Cy Young Award winner," Mets captain David Wright said after Game 1. "Kershaw, Greinke, Kershaw, Greinke, Lester, Arrieta. We're not seeing any slouches, that's for sure. We better bring it again just like we did against the Kershaws and the Greinkes and the Lesters.

"We better do the same thing and try to manufacture some runs and hopefully jump on him early and continue to add on."

Good idea. And if it happens that way Sunday night, the three games at Wrigley could well turn into a baseball wake rather than a historic celebration.


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