Once upon a time, the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets were bitter rivals.
But that was a generation ago. The 1969 season is in the past and so, too, is the dreaded black cat that ran in front of Ron Santo in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium.
In fact, the Cubs' 7-0 record against the Mets in 2015 even feels like ancient history at this point as the two teams get set to square off in the National League Championship Series.
"I feel like New York is a lot like us," Cubs veteran catcher David Ross said. "They've grown up over the year. They're a much different team than when we played them earlier in the year."
That's something of an understatement.
When the Cubs put the finishing touches on their season sweep of the Mets July 2, the "other" New York baseball team was just 40-40 and managed only one run against the Cubs in the three-game series at Citi Field.
The Mets beat Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2, Thursday night with a lineup that featured four key players who, combined, did not take one at-bat in any of the seven games against the Cubs this season.
Third baseman David Wright and catcher Travis d'Arnaud were injured and missed both series against the Cubs while rookie left fielder Michael Conforto didn't make his big-league debut until July 24 and centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes wasn't even acquired until right before the trade deadline.
This truly is a different Mets team - one that can put up runs in bunches and a far cry from the squad Cubs pitching limited to just 11 runs in seven games in the regular season.
[SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]
Add in the Mets' young pitching and this will be quite a tough test for the Cubs.
Young pitchers vs. young hitters
The foundation of the Mets' team is a core of young arms - Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. All four are 27 or under, with both Syndergaard (23) and Matz (24) making their MLB debuts this season.
Those four guys are making up the Mets' postseason rotation and combined to sport a 2.77 ERA in the regular season, striking out 593 batters in 566 innings. The Mets' pitching staff as a whole struck out 54 batters in 44 innings in the postseason.
The Cubs' young hitters, meanwhile, led all of baseball with 1,518 strikeouts in the regular season, more than 100 above the next team (Houston Astros - 1,392).
So even though the Cubs clubbed 10 homers in the four-game NLDS and have shown off impressive power this postseason, they have their work cut out for them against the Mets pitching staff.
How they got here
The Mets obviously rode their young pitching to the NLCS, but they really took off when they traded for Cespedes. The 29-year-old outfielder didn't even join the NL until late July, but he was so awesome in 57 games with the Mets (.941 OPS, 17 HR, 44 RBI) that some actually believed he should be the league's MVP.
Cespedes gave the Mets lineup a new look, but they also got healthy and hot at the right time, going bold by calling up top prospect Conforto and getting Wright and d'Arnaud back from injury. Add in Lucas Duda's hot second half (.955 OPS), Curtis Granderson's steady veteran presence and Daniel Murphy's underrated skillset and the Mets are a scary team on offense, too.
Speaking of Murphy, he could be the key to the series. Anybody watching Game 5 of the NLDS Thursday night could see the impact Murphy can have on a game. He collected three hits and accounted for all three Mets runs, including arguably the smartest play of the postseason when he took advantage of the Dodgers' shift and stole third to set up d'Arnaud's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning.
Murphy also performed well against the Cubs, hitting .360 with an .865 OPS against them in the regular season, though he didn't score or knock in a run in any of the seven games.
Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m. (@ Citi Field, New York) - Jon Lester vs. Matt Harvey
Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m. (@ NY) - Jake Arrieta vs. TBD
Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 20 (@ Wrigley Field), time and starters TBD
Game 4: Wednesday, Oct. 21 (@ Wrigley Field, time and starters TBD
Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 22 (@ Wrigley Field, time and starters TBD
Game 6: Saturday, Oct. 24 (@ NY), time and starters TBD
Game 7: Sunday, Oct. 25 (@ NY, time and starters TBD