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Seven months ago, Noah Syndergaard was the kid in spring training whose lunch plate two veteran teammates felt comfortable tipping into the garbage. Nobody touches his lunch now.

On Sunday, he had the Cubs for lunch, with extra mustard (and a lot of cheese), shutting down Chicago’s powerful lineup for 5 2/3 innings—scoreless, those 5 2/3, until the last batter Syndergaard faced. Against one Cub after the other, he muscled high-90s fastballs safely past, even in dead-red fastball counts. Or he would embarrass them with a low-90s changeup, the Syndergaard equivalent of “I forgot to tell you, I’m not left-handed.”

The Mets would go on to beat the Cubs 4-1 in Game Two of the NLCS, and now lead the series two games to one.

“Gosh, this kid is something special,” David Wright gushed after the outing (and after Syndergaard's very impressive post-lunch-dump season). “Now we’re in the driver’s seat: Worst case, we just need to pick off one game on the road, then obviously lose to Jake Arrieta in Game Six, and it’ll come down to JGrom in the seventh. The way Grommy’s been throwing, I like our chances.”

Wright’s post-game smile suggested the long-suffering Mets captain had gotten a transfusion of Type-O optimism. Wright scored what proved to be the game-winning run after opening the scoring with a double in the first. It was his first hit, and his first run driven in, since the opening game of the NLDS, 16 at-bats before. Mets manager Terry Collins couldn’t help smiling when an on-field reporter mentioned the hit during an in-game interview.

“Oh yeah, David’s starting to feel it, taking a lot better hacks and tracking pitches real well,” Collins said after the game. “For him, it’s just a matter of getting back into that mental space where he thrives. And if he’s hitting, and Murphy and Cespedes keep hitting, and Granderson keeps getting on base like he did tonight, well there’s no reason we can’t win every game in this series except for Game Six.”

Young pitching is never a sure thing, and building around it is, to paraphrase Churchill on democracy, the worst form of franchise building except all the others that have been tried. Syndergaard was, if anything, even more dominant than Matt Harvey was the day before, striking out nine and walking just one Cub. He announced himself early, getting two swinging strikes on the first two pitches of the game, a pair of 98 mph fastballs to Dexter Fowler.

Fowler would be the first Cub to reach scoring position—but not until the sixth inning, by which point the Mets and Syndergaard had a 4-0 lead.

“It was really nice pitching with a lead,” Syndergaard said. “TDarn was just putting down signs and I was locked in with him. Already makes me feel better about taking the loss in Game Six.”

The size of that lead came courtesy of Daniel Murphy, who continued his torrid October with a first-inning, two-run home run. It came on a 1-2 curveball from Arrieta. Batters had hit just .132, and slugged just .250, against the pitch this year.

Of course, what have batters hit against Arrieta this year?

A big fat zilch.

The Cubs’ flame-thrower had the second-lowest second-half ERA in history, and the Cubs had won his previous 15 starts. That the Mets beat him Sunday remains unexplained, though theologians agreed that it was likely a test of our faith.

“We see this all the time in sacred texts,” says Wes Mint, a professor of religious studies at McCall University, hired by MLB to serve as the game’s spiritual-war observer. “The ‘bet’ between Satan and God over Job’s devotion; Satan’s ‘challenge’ to Christ to provide proof of his divinity; and so on. There’s a constant spiritual war between divines to prove or disprove each other’s sacredness, and/or to chip away at the faith of the other’s followers.”

Arrieta went five innings, his shortest outing since June 16th (and, by match, his shortest of the season). He sat at 93 with his fastball, down from 95 in his last start in the NLDS, down from individual starts as high as 96 down the stretch. He struggled to control the running game, giving up a damning insurance run when Curtis Granderson stole not just second against him but third, too. It wasn’t just the radar gun that noticed Arrieta wasn’t quite right; his manager, Joe Maddon, ordered he intentionally walk Murphy in the third, and Maddon had a pitcher warming up in the bullpen the same inning.

Some did begin to express doubts about him—asking him to “prove” his infallibility

or turning their backs on him completely:

But not everybody was so quick to deny Arrieta,

and one particularly devout Met didn’t even acknowledge the outcome Sunday.

“We’re going to go out and do what we have to do: Win Tuesday so we can even this series up,” Murphy told reporters. When informed that, actually, the true and factual standing of the series was two games to one Mets, Murphy shook his head and became flustered. “I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says, just because I disagree with the outcome doesn't mean I'm just never going keep trying.” Eventually, confused reporters moved on.

“Don’t worry about Murph,” Tyler Clippard said, after throwing a scoreless inning in the eighth, his second since a rocky first outing in the NLDS. “He’s just confused. Here’s how I see it: Yeah, like duh, no doy, we’re going to lose Game Six. But we should crush them in every other game, because there’s no way they’re going to beat us when we have Kershaw and Greinke on the mound.”

Informed that, in fact, Clippard is on the Mets, not the Dodgers, Clippard looked stricken. “Wait, so the Mets beat the Dodgers? With Kershaw and Greinke? How the **** did that happen?”

Thank you for reading

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fawcettb
10/19
Is that a phantom Cubs win?
alvinfan
10/19
Yeah, I don't get it either. Is there some comedy I'm missing?
mblthd
10/19
I think the author was making a joke based on the notion that everyone penciled in Arrieta's start as a win for CHC, based on his impressive recent run of success. So, it was like the series was tied 1-1 before they even played Game 2, and by winning Game 2, NYM took a 2-1 lead in the series.
apbadogs
10/19
I'm sitting here at my desk thinking the headline was an innocent mistake and then read "2-1" in the article as well...what the heck?
mattseward
10/19
Umm I think it's a comedy piece, to test people who read the headline and not the article.

As far as I can tell it is poking fun at analysts for stating that Arietta is a guaranteed win, hence why the Mets have lost game 6
mattseward
10/19
Posted before I saw mblthd's comments above
mblthd
10/19
Yours is better, more efficiently written, etc
sam19041
10/19
Intended to be humorous. Worth a shot. Missed the mark.
beeker99
10/19
I thought it was hilarious. But if you missed the headline, how did "Grommy" not give it away?
GBSimons
10/19
"Eventually, confused reporters moved on."

Eventually, confused readers did the same.
bcavers
10/19
Pretty surprising the number of people who didn't get the joke
johnwood427
10/19
I love a good tongue in the cheek!
HarleyBK3
10/19
I don't get it either. But then again, I never expected BP's value to lie in its ability to deliver comedy.
bmurphy428
10/19
It appears the article is satire based around the fact that everyone assumed Arrieta would win any starts he made in this series. So he's already credited with a win in a yet-to-be-played Game 6. It's pointing out that there's a reason they play the games. It could probably be better executed, but it's clearly a joke.
apbadogs
10/19
Come to BP looking for articles on the baseball weekend and get a lame attempt at humor. Man, BP has fallen.
BeplerP
10/19
A good rule of thumb is that, if it has to be explained, it's not a "joke" - which people understand immediately and almost instinctively. It may be "humor", which is a literary genre, which people may or may not understand. So, this is "humor", and I didn't get it. What is the sense in puzzling your readers, and potentially damaging BP's own reputation for accuracy? Sheesh.
Tracyy
10/19
Word
timber
10/19
Another good rule of thumb is "never make your audience feel dumb."

Sometimes it feels like articles of this ilk are meant to be an inside joke - and you're the only one not included. This time it's clear I wasn't alone.
almagu
10/19
BP has continued to run this kind of article (joking, sarcastic, whatever you want to call it) for a while now. The general tenor of comments on these stories is annoyance and confusion, and BP is apparently fine with that. Their viewpoint is, more or less, "Haha, you haters that don't immediately get our humor are hilarious. Get a life, people!" If you make an argument that BP readers don't necessarily want wannabe Onion articles mixed in with otherwise terrific baseball coverage, you just don't have a sense of humor.

God forbid baseball fans would be interested in a BP take on the NLCS!
lyricalkiller
10/19
Why are you saying what my viewpoint is? We didn't reply negatively to any of these comments. I wrote an article, chose (as always) a framing device, was unsure (as always) how that framing device would be received, and then happily let a bunch of you tell me you hated it. That's cool! Sorry!

To be clear, this was my take on the NLCS. The point wasn't to be funny. The point was the point.
almagu
10/19
First -- thanks for replying, Sam.

I'm saying what BP's viewpoint is -- and probably should have said "seems to be" -- based on the fact that these April Fools-ish articles continue to be published at odd times (i.e., not on April 1) and, thought I certainly may have missed it, I haven't really seen much of a response or any comment from BP.

As another commenter said, if it has to be explained, it's not a joke. It's not that you're not funny or we hate you or your articles, it's just that when you/BP continue to mix these kind of articles in, seemingly randomly, with your other content, it's just downright confusing. Maybe some sort of labeling would do the trick, like Fangraphs' now-defunct "NotGraphs."

And I don't believe this is really your take on the NLCS. Or that "the point wasn't to be funny." You're a good baseball analyst and this is 1,000+ words of made-up quotes and nonsense. A lot of us would love to hear your actual take on the game -- unless you're saying that the NLCS is a joke?
Robotey
10/19
Sam - it's not that the joke is not funny or that the point is not taken well. it's more that it's absolutely unclear what the joke or the point is. You've gone Andy Kauffman on this one.
DrDaley
10/19
Guess you need a mitt that can frame the article better.
alfredeinstein
10/19
I dig this article—keep at 'em, S-Mill.
NYYanks826
10/20
I don't understand what's so difficult to understand what about this article.

I'm pretty sure most of the people who made the "I don't get it" comments didn't read the article. They just saw the fact that the article mentioned the Mets taking a 2-1 lead, and just wanted to be the first to jump down BP's throat about what they thought was a "mistake".

Nice work on the article, Sam. I reiterate my earlier point that you should just write all of these recaps.