NEW YORK — Matt Harvey held the Cubs to four hits over 7 2/3 innings, Curtis Granderson drove in two runs with a single and sacrifice fly and Daniel Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud hit solo homers against Cubs starter Jon Lester to lead the Mets to a 4-2 victory Saturday night in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series before 44,287 fans, the largest crowd to see a Mets game at Citi Field.
Granderson singled home Juan Lagares from second with two outs in the fifth inning to break a 1-all tie, and d’Arnaud homered in the sixth before Granderson added another run on a short sacrifice fly in the seventh. Murphy homered against Lester in the first inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
With Harvey about to pitch as he did, it was a big early run.
“He was absolutely on top of his game tonight,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
“Give him credit because he had about as good of command as you possibly can of all his pitches. His stuff is always good, but the command was outrageous tonight. Therein lies the game, because Jon pitched well, too.”
The result put the Cubs in an 0-1 hole in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Sunday night in New York with the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta facing the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard.
“It’s a nice situation to be in having him come back,” Maddon said. “Listen, honestly, our guys were fine tonight. Our guys were really good. Sometimes you have to credit the other guy pitching and he was that good.”
Trailing 4-1 with two outs in the eighth, the Cubs cut the lead in half on rookie Kyle Schwarber’s solo homer against Harvey. Schwarber has homered in three consecutive games, tying a Cubs postseason record shared by Alex Gonzalez in 2003. Schwarber has four postseason homers.
The homer knocked out Harvey, who was in control for most of the night. Harvey pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out nine before being lifted in favor of closer Jeurys Familia. The Cubs brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth with two outs when Miguel Montero singled, but second baseman Murphy made a diving stop on a Tommy La Stella one-hopper to end the game.
“We need to have a short memory, go home [to the team hotel] and go to sleep and come back, rejuvenate and get it tomorrow,’’ Montero said. “Gotta move on.’’
Anthony Rizzo broke up Harvey’s perfect game by getting hit with an 0-2 pitch leading off the fifth inning, and Starlin Castro drove Rizzo home with the tying run on a double to center field, pulling the Cubs into a 1-1 tie. But Harvey, after getting the lead back, stayed in control and kept the Cubs’ bats in check and took a three-hitter into the eighth.
After Granderson’s RBI single, d’Arnaud’s solo homer made it 3-1. The lead was stretched to 4-1 as Lagares led off the Mets seventh with a single, was bunted to second by Harvey, stole third and scored on a short fly to Schwarber in left field. Schwarber appeared to have a play on Lagares, but Montero — who had entered at catcher for David Ross on a double switch — caught his throw behind the plate and had to move up to make the tag, which was late.
“I didn’t want to catch it on the short hop,” Montero said. “It was a tough play to actually stay on the plate and make a tag. The throw had some life on it and I’m pretty sure if I had stayed on the play it would have looked even worse – I wouldn’t have caught it.’’
Lester was pulled after that in favor of Justin Grimm. Lester’s line: 6 2/3 innings, eight hits, four runs, one walk, five strikeouts.
The Cubs had failed to score after getting two runners on with one out in the seventh. Rizzo led off with a walk, and was then hit in the left hand with a throw from second baseman Daniel Murphy as Murphy attempted to double Rizzo off first on Castro’s line out. After a visit from the Cubs training staff and manager Joe Maddon, Rizzo stayed in the game. Jorge Soler reached on an infield single, but Harvey struck out Baez and pinch hitter Tommy La Stella to end the threat.
Harvey was dominant out of the gate, retiring the first 12 Cubs in order — including six on strikeouts. Murphy belted a solo homer with two outs in the first against Lester as the Mets took a 1-0 lead.
After the Cubs tied it on Castro’s liner that carried over Lageres’ outstretched glove in center field, left fielder Cespedes prevented the Cubs from taking the lead by throwing out Castro at home on Baez’ single. On the double, Castro appeared to get a slow start out of the batter’s box, possibly preventing him from getting to third for a triple.
Starlin Castro is tagged out at home by Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud. -Getty Images
On a chilly night in Queens, Lester retired Granderson on a grounder to second baseman Castro and David Wright on a short fly to left before Murphy, who has homered in three consecutive postseason games, cranked one into the right field seats to make it 1-0. Lester then struck out Cespedes to end the inning.
Game time temperature was 48 degrees with windy conditions. Soler, in right field, and Castro (second base) and shortstop Baez all wore hooded facemasks.
Javier Baez starts a double play in the second inning as Starlin Castro looks on. -Getty Images
The Cubs, who were 7-0 against the Mets during the regular season, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 in the NL Wild Card Game before defeating the St. Louis Cardinals three games to one in the NLDS. They had their last eight regular season games and had won 12 of their last 13 games overall.
“I think everything that we’re doing right now, we’re playing pretty good baseball,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “And, believe me, when I say this, that adage in baseball that good pitching beats good hitting. We’ve got some pretty good hitters. But I’m going to tell you something, when you face what we’ve been facing lately, you’re not going to get a lot of hits. I don’t care what anybody says about grinding out at-bats. These guys are used to people trying to grind out at-bats against them, and they keep pitching three-hitters.
“So what we’ve just got to do is continue to stay the course, and try to make them work a little harder and try to get something decent to hit. But it’s not easy. I mean, it looks easy because they’re great players, but it’s not easy hitting these guys.”
Schwarber’s fourth postseason homer extended his postseason franchise mark for homers by a rookie and matched the Cubs postseason record for homers by any player, a mark shared by Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez in 2003. Schwarber is one of five players in history to hit four postseason homers before turning 23: Mickey Mantle, Andruw Jones, Miguel Cabrera and Bryce Harper.