Murphy and the Mets sweep Cubs to reach World Series
CHICAGO (AP) — Two sweet swings by Lucas Duda put New York in position for a playoff sweep of the Chicago Cubs, and Daniel Murphy finished the job for the Mets.
Next up is a trip to the World Series.
Murphy homered for a record sixth consecutive postseason game, and the Mets brushed aside the Cubs 8-3 Wednesday night, capping a National League Championship Series in which New York never trailed.
"I can't explain it. It's such a blessing to contribute to what we've been able to do," Murphy said.
Duda hit a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run double in the second, silencing a crowd of 42,227 desperately hoping for the beginning of an epic comeback in Game 4.
Not this time. Not with New York's array of power arms, and Murphy swinging a hot stick that made him the NLCS MVP.
The Mets advanced to the World Series for the first time since they lost to the crosstown Yankees in five games in 2000. They will play at either Toronto or Kansas City in Game 1 on Tuesday night; the Royals lead 3-2 in the ALCS.
But the first big question for New York is the health of center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who left in the second inning with soreness in his left shoulder. Any health issue for the slugger could be a big factor in the next round.
"Cespedes' shoulder is going to be OK," manager Terry Collins said. "They didn't think there was any damage."
The Cubs, meanwhile, still haven't won the crown since 1908. Manager Joe Maddon's wild-card bunch surged into this series, but was overmatched and fell behind in the first inning of every game.
"They smothered us early and that's always a great game plan," Maddon said.
When Dexter Fowler looked at a called third strike for the final out, Jeurys Familia dropped to his knees in front of the mound and then hopped up for a hug from catcher Travis d'Arnaud. They were soon joined by the rest of their jubilant teammates in the infield grass.
By wrapping it up fast, the Mets can now set up their imposing rotation how they want for the World Series. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard will all be on full rest, and then some.
"This is a long time coming," third baseman David Wright said.
Right when it looked as if his historic streak was coming to an end, Murphy connected for a two-run drive to center against Fernando Rodney in the eighth inning. The second baseman raised his right arm as he rounded first after his seventh homer of the playoffs — the string includes a shot in the deciding Game 5 of the division series at Dodger Stadium last week.
Murphy, who was tied with Carlos Beltran for the postseason homer streak, finished with four hits and batted .529 (9 for 17) in the series.
D'Arnaud also homered as the Mets won their fifth pennant. Bartolo Colon pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings for his first playoff win since 2001, for Cleveland at Seattle. The 14 years, 12 days between postseason victories for the 42-year-old right-hander snapped the major league record of exactly 14 years for Milt Wilcox, according to STATS.
Rookie Kris Bryant hit a two-run homer for Chicago in the eighth, but it was way too late for the Cubs in their first appearance in the NLCS in 12 years. The Cubs shut out Pittsburgh in the wild-card game and eliminated rival St. Louis in the division series, but were unable to mount much of a challenge against the Mets' talented pitching staff.
"I think we're in a place nobody expected us to be and we can be proud of that," Bryant said. "We were four wins away from going to the World Series. I think a lot of people didn't really expect us to be here."
The Cubs also loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, and came away with only one run on Kyle Schwarber's grounder to first. Starlin Castro lined right to Wright at third on a hard smash for the first out.
While the Mets' pitching dominated much of the series, it was clear the Cubs were in trouble after aces Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta dropped the first two games in New York. Kyle Hendricks lasted just four innings on Tuesday night, and Jason Hammel was even worse in Game 4.
With two out and a runner on in the first, Hammel walked Cespedes before Duda hit a long drive to center for his first playoff homer. D'Arnaud followed with a shot to right for the Mets' second set of consecutive homers in playoff history, joining Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds in Game 4 of the 1988 NLCS against Los Angeles.
Hammel was replaced by Travis Wood after a one-out walk in the second, and Duda drove home two more runs with a double into the gap in right-center. Duda was just 3 for 24 in the playoffs coming into the night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap