Mets sweep Cubs in NLCS, advance to World Series

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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For the first time since the 2000 Subway Series, the Mets are heading to the Fall Classic. And they’ll be hunting for their first World Series title since 1986.

It was first baseman Lucas Duda who served as the initial unlikely hero in Wednesday night’s NLCS Game 4 clincher at Wrigley Field, slugging a three-run shot in the Mets’ four-run opening frame and a two-run double in the second. He finished the 8-3 series-sweeping victory with three extra-base hits and five RBI.

Duda entered the evening with just one hit in the Championship Series, and he had just two hits with 11 strikeouts in 18 at-bats during the Division Series.

That stuff has become a theme this October for the Mets, and second baseman Daniel Murphy again got in on the fun with a two-run bomb in the top of the eighth inning that gave New York its seventh and eighth runs of Game 4. With that shot, Murphy became the first player in major league history to go yard in six consecutive postseason games. The 30-year-old impending free agent had just 14 homers during the regular season and he hit nine home runs in all of 2014.

Mets left-hander Steven Matz only lasted 4 2/3 innings Wednesday in his Game 4 assignment, but he didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings and that hot start — coupled with the early offensive outburst from Duda — helped suck much of the air out of Wrigley Field.

The crowd only really got going when Kris Bryant slugged a two-run homer off Mets reliever Tyler Clippard in the bottom of the eighth inning. But the script had been written and edited and leather-bound by that point.

New York now has five days to rest up before Game 1 of the World Series next Tuesday night in either Toronto or Kansas City. That chunk of time could prove highly beneficial given that Yoenis Cespedes had to make an early exit Wednesday with discomfort in his left shoulder. Mets manager Terry Collins acknowledged on the TBS broadcast that Cespedes could not lift his arm.

Champagne tends to ease some of the aches and pains. Pour it up, pour it up.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.