NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 2:16 AM
The Mets are playing with sky-high confidence as they go up 3-0 in the NLCS on Tuesday night.
CHICAGO — For two days Joe Maddon had said all he wanted for Game 3 was warmer weather, as if that would unleash the Cubs’ sluggers, and by Tuesday you could tell that Terry Collins was tired of hearing it.
“I know they’re back in their park and it’s warmer and that’s conducive to their lineup,” Collins said. “But we have power too. You look at our power numbers from August on, and we’re dangerous. So I think this park is going to help us as much as it helps them.”
As he spoke, Collins seemed to have his chin out just a bit — figuratively, anyway.
He’s friendly with Maddon, having hired him as his bench coach with the Angels two decades ago, but the Mets’ manager clearly didn’t like the idea that anyone might imply his team had been fortunate to get frigid weather in New York for Games 1 and 2.
Then the Mets went out and backed him up on that.
Jacob deGrom delivered again and the Mets banged the ball around the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field for 11 hits, including — what else? — another Daniel Murphy home run.
MCCARRON: CESPEDES MAKES IMPACT WITH BAT AND LEGS
The result was a 5-2 win that puts the Mets in the rather stunning position of being able to sweep the NLCS on Wednesday and go the World Series. But here’s the kicker: there’s nothing fluky about it.
The Mets are outplaying the Cubs in every phase of the game, forcing them into mistakes in part with aggressive baserunning that speaks to the swagger they’ve developed over the last couple of months.
Yoenis Cespedes plays a large role Tuesday night, driving in two runs and collecting three hits.
“I tell you what, my guys are playing hard,” was the way Collins put it after the game. “I mean, they’re running the bases. They’re doing things you’ve got to do right now to take advantage of any little chance you’ve got to try to score runs.”
Mainly these Mets are playing with the type of killer instinct that often defines championship teams.
First it was Yoenis Cespedes stealing third base in the sixth inning with the game tied 2-2 and making it look easy, putting pressure on the Cubs that paid off in the form of a wild pitch on a strikeout by Michael Conforto that put the Mets ahead for good.
And then when the Cubs opened the door with a couple of misplays in the seventh, Kris Bryant double-clutching on Murphy’s ground ball, and Kyle Schwarber failing to haul in Cespedes’ catchable liner over his head, the Mets came storming through to take control, in part because of how much they forced the action on the bases.
Jacob deGrom is just the latest Mets’ flamethrower to silence the powerful young bats in the Cubs’ lineup with seven strikeouts in seven innings.
The Mets? Baserunning? It was hardly their identity during the season, but it was part of their game plan for October.
“It’s excellent game planning by our coaching staff coming into the playoffs and letting us try to run wild on the basepaths,” said David Wright. “Under control, but if we had a lead early, to continue to put your foot on the gas and try to go.
“That was kind of our mantra coming into the playoffs, to put pressure on the defense.”
Daniel Murphy continues to be the Mets’ sparkplug, celebrating a run scored in the seventh.
Along the way they’ve exposed the Cubs a bit, in terms of their pitching depth and their defense. Basically, then, when they’re not hitting the ball out of the park and beating teams up offensively, they’re vulnerable.
Maddon practically admitted as much afterward. He spoke of the Cespedes steal of third and said “that was our fault,” and then lamented the plays by Bryant and Schwarber as crucial.
“They’ve played really well,” he said of the Mets, “and they’ve done little things to take advantage of us in different moments. We’ve not been able to overcome that because we’re not hitting the ball like we normally can.”
No, as it turned out, the unseasonably warm weather on Tuesday night didn’t help the Cubs’ bats as much as Maddon seemed to believe. They did hit two solo home runs, including a ridiculous opposite-field shot by Schwarber on a ball a foot outside.
But otherwise deGrom held them in check, and much as in Game 5 against the Dodgers, he did it by relying mostly on his off-speed stuff because the Cubs were on his fastball — again a testament to his toughness and polish as a complete pitcher.
And let’s face it, the Mets’ pitching dominance is the biggest difference in this series, all the more so after they beat Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in Games 1 and 2. Because much like the Dodgers, the Cubs can’t come close to matching the Mets’ depth in starting pitching.
So cold weather, warm weather, it doesn’t seem to matter. The Mets have the Cubs down and they seem to have the mindset to step on their neck and finish them off quickly.