3 observations as the Cubs make history with sweep of Mets in New York
The Cubs handed the Mets their first 3-game series sweep of the year, besting New York 6-3 on Wednesday night at Citi Field.
The Cubs won the season series, taking 4 out of 7 from the Mets. The Mets originally won the first 3 of a 4-game set at Wrigley Field but the Cubs finished the season series with 4 straight wins and made history in the process:
The @Cubs are the first team in MLB history to have 30+ fewer wins than their opponent entering a 3+ game road series and yet sweep the series winning every game by 3+ runs.— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) September 15, 2022
Here are three observations from the Cubs’ sweep:
1. Starting pitching
The Cubs starting staff made all the difference in the series sweep. In the first series at Wrigley Field, Cubs starters posted a 4.42 ERA and Adrian Sampson was the only starter to make it past the 5th inning — it was incidentally enough the only game the Cubs won against the Mets at the Friendly Confines. In the three games at Citi Field, Javier Assad, Sampson and Drew Smyly posted a 1.06 ERA and all three pitched at least 5 innings (both Assad and Sampson had quality starts).
David Ross and the Cubs have mentioned all season the lack of health in their starting rotation — most of the staff they had planned on having back in Spring Training is now healthy, but it’s been the impressive contributions of pitchers like Assad and Sampson that has helped carry the Cubs rotation in the second half. The Cubs have the third-best ERA (3.11) in the league from starters since the All-Star Break.
2. Versatile offense
Against the Mets, the Cubs showed the ability to score in a multitude of ways.
They flashed power, hitting 4 home runs in the first two games. They showed small ball against Jacob deGrom on Tuesday, finding a way to beat one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. In the 4th inning against deGrom, Michael Hermosillo laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached on an error and two batters later, Patrick Wisdom placed a perfect bunt to reach first and score Ian Happ.
Wednesday, they strung together solid at-bats, with the first three batters of the game drawing walks. They then hit four consecutive doubles, including three straight doubles to build a 6-run lead in the 1st inning. It chased Mets starter David Peterson after 0.1 innings. The 1st inning gave more than enough cushion for Smyly and the Cubs bullpen and gave the Mets an uphill battle the rest of the way.
3. Relievers settling into roles
There’s no question Brandon Hughes has worked his way to the top of Ross’ proverbial power rankings of relief pitchers. Ross turned to the lefty for multiple innings of work in leverage situations throughout the series. On Monday, Hughes picked up a 5-out save, his 5th of the season. Ross went back to him on Tuesday for 1.2 innings, bringing him on with a runner on base in the 8th. Hughes ended up finished out the game for the Cubs.
With Hughes down on Wednesday, Ross turned to Mark Leiter Jr. for the save and — aside from a leadoff hit-by-pitch — he shut the door on the Mets to pick up his second save of the season, this one with his dad (an 11-year MLB veteran) in attendance. Leiter pitched a perfect 7th inning on Monday and has been gaining more trust in leverage situations.
Ross went to Michael Rucker in the 7th inning on Tuesday and utilized the righty for 1.1 innings in a 4-run game. Rucker was in another leverage spot Wednesday night, as Ross turned to him for the 8th.
As the Cubs continue to play out the season, seeing how different bullpen arms react in various situations will be a storyline to follow for the team.