The Mets take on the defending champions at Wrigley Field for a three-game series.

Chicago Cubs (31-31, 2nd Place NL Central, 1 GB) at

New York Mets (28-33, 2nd Place NL East, 9.5 GB)

 

Well, that was an impressive ending to the Atlanta series.  The Mets won 3 in a row for just the 4th time this season.  Yoenis Cespedes returned for the first time since April 27 (In that time period, the Mets went 17-20), and promptly showed that his bat hadn’t suffered, launching a Grand Slam in Game 1 of the Doubleheader on Saturday.  Steven Matz and Seth Lugo both returned to inject some life into the starting lineup, each tossing 7 innings and allowing just a run each to both earn victories.  Coupled with the Nationals getting swept by the Rangers, the Mets were able to pick up 2.5 games in the standings for their biggest jump in months.

 

The Mets now get a look at the World-Champion Chicago Cubs for the first time this season.

 

The Cubs This Season: Although the Cubs 31-31 record this season is well off the pace of 43-19 that they were at this time last season, they are only a game behind Milwaukee in the competitive NL Central.  All four teams are within 4.5 games of the top spot.  Kris Bryant leads the team with a .268 Batting Average, 14 Home Runs and 59 Hits, while Anthony Rizzo has 37 RBI for the top spot in that category.  Jake Arrieta leads the team in wins with 6, and strikeouts with 79.  Kyle Hendricks’ 4.09 ERA and Wade Davis’ 13 saves are also team leads.

 

For the Mets, The Cubs are the start of a grueling 11-game stretch, where the Nationals come in to town, before the Mets head to the West Coast for 4 with the Dodgers to kick off a 10-game road trip.  These next few weeks will determine whether the Mets will be going ‘all-in’ at the trading deadline, or will be starting preps for 2018.

 

Here are the probable pitching matchups for the series:

 

Monday: John Lackey (4-6, 5.12) vs. Jacob deGrom (4-3, 4.75)

Lackey appears to be showing his age.  His ERA is about 1.5 runs worse than his career ERA of 3.91, he has allowed 16 Home Runs this year, and walked 21 in 70.1 innings this season.  For deGrom, the third time hopes to be the charm after 2 horrendous starts against Milwaukee an Texas, giving up 15 runs in just 8 innings of work, raising his ERA from 3.23 to its current 4.75.

 

Tuesday: Jon Lester (3-4, 4.13) vs. Zack Wheeler (3-3, 3.45)

The reigning NLCS MVP is averaging a strikeout per inning, while maintaining some control, only walking more than 3 batters in game just twice this year. However, opposing batters are hitting .263 against him, which is almost 20 points higher than his career average.  His ERA and WHIP (1.35) are each the worst they have been in 7 seasons.  Wheeler pitched well in his last outing against Texas, allowing just a run on 6 hits in 7 innings, but failed to get the win, as the bullpen again fell through late.

 

Wednesday: Mike Montgomery (0-3, 2.43) vs. Matt Harvey (4-3, 5.02)

Montgomery makes his second start in the rotation this season, filling in for the injured Kyle Hendricks.  Montgomery’s 3 losses came in relief, but he also picked up 2 saves.  In his first start in his last game, Montgomery allowed 2 Earned Runs in 4 innings vs. Colorado, but got the no-decision.  Harvey looks for his 5th quality start in his last 6 outings, coming off a 5-inning performance against Atlanta, where he allowed no runs, but did not get a decision in the loss.  Harvey will also look to keep his pitch count below 100, after hitting that number in his last 4 starts.

 

Getting back into the playoff race is not going to happen overnight, but the Atlanta series pushed the ‘panic level’ back from about an 8 or 9 to about 7.

 

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