NEW YORK -- The New York Mets keep disposing of Cy Young candidates.
Red-hot Daniel Murphy belted a two-run homer in a three-run first inning against Jake Arrieta, and Noah Syndergaard took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning as the Amazin’s beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night at Citi Field.
The Mets took a 2-0 series lead, and the venue now shifts to Wrigley Field.
Arrieta allowed three first-inning runs in a start for the first time since July 30, 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was 123 starts ago, during his rookie season with the Baltimore Orioles.
This postseason, the Mets have successfully navigated a gauntlet of aces that now includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Arrieta -- the presumptive top-three finishers in this year’s NL Cy Young race -- to move within six wins of the organization’s third World Series championship.
Thumbs up: Murphy is about to make a fortune in free agency. His two-run shot in the first inning staked the Mets to a 3-0 lead. Sunday saw Murphy’s fourth straight game with a homer, as well as his fifth long ball this postseason. Murphy’s other victims: Kershaw (twice), Greinke and Jon Lester.
Murphy became the eighth player in major league history to homer in four straight postseason games. The most recent was Evan Longoria with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. Murphy’s five homers match the record for postseason homers in a Mets career. Mike Piazza had a combined five in 1999 and 2000. Murphy’s four straight games with a homer and five homers in one postseason are both franchise records.
How hot is Murphy? The Cubs intentionally walked him to get to Yoenis Cespedes in the at-bat following the long ball.
Meanwhile, David Wright told manager Terry Collins after Saturday’s game that he was underperforming and would be willing to sit if there were a better alternative. Good thing Collins disregarded his captain’s statement. Wright opened the scoring in the first inning with an RBI double against Arrieta. It was Wright’s second hit in 20 at-bats this postseason. Wright did strike out in his next two at-bats, though, and finished 1-for-4.
Curtis Granderson deserved a bow too. Granderson reached above the right-field wall in the second inning to take a would-be homer away from Chris Coghlan and help Syndergaard carry a scoreless effort into the sixth.
After uncertainty about whether Syndergaard would be ready to start (he threw an inning of relief Thursday at Dodger Stadium), Syndergaard took the ball and limited the Cubs to one run on three hits and one walk while striking out nine in 5 2/3 innings. Syndergaard departed after surrendering an RBI double to Kris Bryant on pitch No. 101, which pulled the score to 4-1.
Jonathon Niese entered and ended the threat by striking out Anthony Rizzo. Niese, who is due to spend Monday in his native Ohio after the death of a family member, has now struck out both batters he has faced this postseason. He struck out Justin Ruggiano in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Syndergaard joined Tom Seaver (1973), Dwight Gooden (1988) and Al Leiter (2000) as the only pitchers in Mets' franchise history to strike out at least nine batters twice in a postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Arrieta, meanwhile, was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks (one intentional) in five innings. He threw 94 pitches.
Thumbs down: Lucas Duda returned to the lineup after sitting out the NLCS opener and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. That dropped Duda to 2-for-21 with 13 strikeouts this postseason. Collins said Duda has some rope, but at some point, the Mets might have to consider using Kelly Johnson at second base and sliding Murphy to first base against right-handed pitching.