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Mets host Cubs in battle of first-place clubs

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The Mets are hoping for a better result against the Cubs after being swept at Wrigley Field in April.

Chicago Cubs v. San Francisco Giants Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Mets (32-25) welcome the Chicago Cubs (38-27) to Citi Field for a four-game series between two first-place clubs. The Mets and Cubs squared off at Wrigley Field in April, which felt like a different season, quite frankly. In that series, the Mets got swept, which included a 16-4 shellacking in the middle game.

The Mets took two out of three against the struggling San Diego Padres over the weekend to secure a season series victory against them. On Friday night, Jacob deGrom was simply superb over six shutout innings, limiting the Padres to one hit while striking out ten in a 3-2 Mets victory. He also drove in two of his team’s three runs in the victory. The Mets got on the board against Blake Snell with back-to-back doubles from Kevin Pillar and Billy McKinney to lead off the fifth, with deGrom providing the two-run hit two batters later. The ace was lifted after 80 pitches and six innings with right flexor tendinitis, but that move was mostly precautionary. The Padres climbed to within a run after Jake Cronenworth hit a two-run homer off Miguel Castro, but Seth Lugo, Aaron Loup, and Edwin Díaz shut the door on San Diego.

The Mets defeated the Padres 4-1 on Saturday to earn the series victory and make it four straight against San Diego. Marcus Stroman was stellar over 6.1 innings, allowing just one run on a Fernando Tatis Jr. home run in the seventh. The Mets jumped out in front on a Francisco Lindor two-run homer in the first against Joe Musgrove and never looked back back from there. They added a run in the sixth on a Dominic Smith ground out another in the eighth on a Jonathan Villar homer. San Diego never threatened again, as Diaz picked up his second save in as many games to finish off the win.

The Mets got five fine innings from Joey Lucchesi on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough as they were beaten 7-3. Tommy Pham led off the game with a homer, but Lucchesi kept San Diego off the board after that. The Mets jumped ahead in the fifth on a two-run homer from José Peraza, which put the lefty Lucchesi in line for the win. With Diaz, Loup, and Lugo unavailable, and Castro still not feeling 100% healthy, Luis Rojas asked Jeurys Famila to pitch two innings, and it did not work. He danced around danger in the sixth, putting the first two on but escaping without allowing a run. He wasn’t so lucky in the seventh, as he loaded the bases before walking Pham to tie the game. Rojas went to Jacob Barnes, who promptly served up a grand slam to Tatis Jr. and another homer to Manny Machado, which put the game well out of reach.

The Mets were able to win four of their games against the Padres thanks to the effectiveness of their starting pitching. Over the seven games, Mets starters threw a combined 39.2 innings and allowed a total of six earned runs, which is good for a 1.36 ERA. That ranks near the top for best earned run average the team has ever put up against one opponent over the course of a season series.

Offensively, Francisco Lindor continues his terrific play, hitting .310/.365/.569 with three homers and a 159 wRC+ over his last 15 games. He could soon be getting some help, as both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto are expected to begin rehab assignments soon, while Brandon Nimmo could not be far behind after getting a second opinion on his injured finger.

The Cubs come into this series on a five-game winning streak after the club swept the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend to maintain their hold on first place in the National League Central. They are currently tied at the top with the Milwaukee Brewers, both of whom are five games clear of the Cincinnati Reds and six games ahead of the aforementioned Cardinals. Prior to that sweep, Chicago took two from the Padres.

Much of the talk surrounding the Cubs has been the emergence of Patrick Wisdom. The 29-year-old, who still qualifies as a rookie after limited playing time with the Cardinals (2018), Texas Rangers (2019) and Cubs (2020), is off to an improbable start, hitting eight home runs in his first 10 games, which tied Aristides Aquino for the most over a player’s first ten starts since 1900. Though he has cooled down a bit as of late, the third baseman will be someone worth watching during this series, and the Mets will have to be smart about how they pitch to him.

The soon-to-be-free-agent Kris Bryant has been making a case for the big bucks this winter, hitting .297/.377/.554 with 13 home runs, a team-high 40 runs scored, a team-leading 154 wRC+ and a team-best 1.5 fWAR in 60 games. The team’s other high-profile upcoming free agent, Javier Baez, currently leads Chicago with 14 home runs while slashing .236/.271/.467 with a team-best nine stolen bases, a 99 wRC+ and a 1.2 fWAR in 56 games.

Monday, June 14: Jake Arrieta vs. David Peterson, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Arrieta (2021): 58.0 IP, 48 K, 12 BB, 11 HR, 4.97 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 1.45 WHIP, -0.6 bWAR

Arrieta’s return to Chicago has not been a happy one for him or the club so far. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner got off to a good start, posting a 2.57 ERA over his first five starts in his return to Chicago after spending three years with the Philadelphia Phillies, but he has pitched to a 5.71 ERA over his last seven starts. During that time, he endured a short stint on the IL with a cut on his right thumb, and he hasn’t quite been able to recapture that April magic. His last start was better, as he pitched five innings of one-run ball against the Padres while settling for a no decision. In his prior start, he allowed six earned runs in two innings against the San Francisco Giants as he was saddled with the loss. Arrieta beat the Mets earlier this year, giving up one earned run over five innings.

Peterson (2021): 47.0 IP, 53 K, 21 BB, 9 HR, 6.32 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 1.51 WHIP, -1.1 bWAR

Peterson has been exposed this season after a surprising rookie campaign. In his last two starts, he’s gone a combined three innings while allowing nine earned runs on eleven hits. In both outings, his club staked him to an early lead, and both times he failed to make it stick. In his last start, he took his fifth loss against the Baltimore Orioles after being charged with four earned runs on eight hits over 2.2 innings. It also represents the fifth start this year in which the lefty has gone four innings or fewer, and with reinforcements nowhere in sight, that is not what the team needs right now. He’ll try his luck again versus the Cubs after he gave up six runs (three earned) in 3.1 innings at Wrigley Field back in April.

Tuesday, June 15: Alec Mills vs. Taijuan Walker, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Mills (2021): 23.2 IP, 15 K, 10 BB, 4 HR, 6.08 ERA, 5.86 FIP, 1.52 WHIP, -0.6 bWAR

Mills will make only his second start of the 2021 season against the Mets on Tuesday. The right-hander has mostly pitched out of the bullpen after starting 11 games for Chicago during the 2020 season. In that one start, he gave up two earned runs in four innings against the Brewers back on April 13. Mills missed about three weeks between mid-May and early June with a lower back strain, only returning very recently from that trip on the IL. In his first appearance back on June 8, he allowed one earned run in one inning of work against the Padres.

Walker (2021): 61.0 IP, 60 K, 24 BB, 2 HR, 2.07 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 1.6 bWAR

Walker continues to prove to be a steal for the Mets, who signed him in February to anchor the back-end of their rotation. Thrust into a top-3 role, Walker has excelled. In his last start against the Orioles, he gave up one run over seven terrific innings while striking out a season-high nine to earn his fifth win in orange and blue. He threw 68 of his 93 pitches (73%) for strikes, and was very efficient all evening. He has now allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of his eleven starts this season, and could be a real candidate for the National League All Star team roster. He currently sports the fifth-best ERA and and seventh-best FIP in the NL.

Wednesday, June 16: TBD vs. Jacob deGrom, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

TBD

The Cubs have not yet named a starting pitcher for Wednesday’s game against the Mets.

deGrom (2021): 58.0 IP, 103 K, 8 BB, 3 HR, 0.56 ERA, 0.92 FIP, 0.53 WHIP, 3.9 bWAR

deGrom’s continued dominance is really a sight to behold, and something that will be talked about for generations to come. In his last start, he was perfect through four before giving up a single with one out in the fifth, the only baserunner he allowed in his six-inning effort. He struck out ten, the fifth time this season he’s reached double figures in punch outs. He now leads the league in ERA, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, BB/9, K/9, and bWAR. In other words, if there is a good pitching stat, deGrom probably leads it. He should be good to go on Wednesday after his last start was cut short due to right flexor tendinitis, but the team will likely keep an eye on their ace to watch for any warning signs.

Thursday, June 17: Kyle Hendricks vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Hendricks (2021): 74.2 IP, 58 K, 15 BB, 19 HR, 4.46 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 0.0 bWAR

In a year where home runs are down across the board, Hendricks is allowing an obscene amount of long balls at the early juncture of this season. He’s given up 19, which is the most in the National League, and his 2.3 HR/9 is the most among all qualified starting pitchers in baseball. He has also given up 86 hits, which is the most among starting pitchers in the NL. The right-hander, who finished ninth in Cy Young voting last year, has been better as of late, putting together six consecutive quality starts. In that stretch, he’s pitching to a 2.93 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 40 innings, though his FIP in that span remains at a still-high 4.73. In his last appearance, he defeated the Cardinals while allowing two earned runs on three hits with two strikeouts in six innings.

Stroman (2021): 77.1 IP, 67 K, 18 BB, 8 HR, 2.33 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 1.7 bWAR

Stroman was once again tremendous in his last outing, limiting the Padres to one earned run over 6.1 innings of work. He was much better with his command, walking only one batter after issuing four free passes in his prior start. He also matched his season high with eight strikeouts on the afternoon. As always, his defense played a big role in helping him out, with some terrific defensive plays made behind him. Stroman will continue to get batters to put the ball in play, so he’ll need his defense to stay strong behind him in order to keep producing those great results. Stroman has been a real treat to watch this year, and he continues to make a case for his inclusion on the NL All Star team.

Prediction: The Mets and Chicago split their four-game set.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in their four game series against the Cubs?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    It’s a four-game sweep for the Metsies!
    (10 votes)
  • 45%
    The Mets take three of four from the streaking Cubs!
    (114 votes)
  • 38%
    The Mets and Cubs split their four games.
    (97 votes)
  • 4%
    The Mets steal one, but drop three of four overall.
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    It’s a Chitown beatdown as the Mets are swept away.
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    Pizza!
    (14 votes)
252 votes total Vote Now