Tonight an exciting and interesting series starts off with the Chicago Cubs hosting the New York Mets. Recently as last year, the Cubs swept the Mets in seven regular-season games. The Mets then came back and returned the favor in the NLCS, sweeping the Cubs in four games, advancing the coveted World Series final.
But all that history, shouldn’t affect this week’s series, said Cubs manager Joe Maddon to local media. He has left-hander Jon Lester and righty Jake Arrieta prepared to make a one-two punch in consecutive night games against the reigning National League champs, and show the Mets just what they’re made of.
Lester has had eight days between starts, and Arrieta will have had 10 days since his last appearance on the mound. They should be itching to get some action. “I’m eager to see how these guys react to the extra time off,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon on Sunday.
The Cubs really feel that they have something to prove after being washed out by the Mets in four games on enemy turf in New York when they last played, June 30 and July 3. Last year, Chicago lost eight straight to New York after winning seven straight regular-season games in the 2015 season, so there are a lot of ups and down between these two squads.
Lester (9-4, 3.01 ERA) will match up against left-hander Steve Matz (7-5, 3.38 ERA) on Monday night and will want to get back on track after giving up 12 earned runs in his last two starts. Overall, ha has given up just 24 runs total in his first 16 starts so he’ll look to better than record. But Lester doesn’t have a good record at City field and he knows it, since he gave up a season-high eight runs in a career-low 1 1/2 innings in his last outing there on July 3.
The Chubs are also trying to shake off a slump they started pre-All Star game where they lost 15 of 20 games, so a big turn around is needed if they want to get to the post-season. The Cubs are 55-36, and luckily they won three straight, which included a 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh, right before the break, so they’ll want to continue that streak.
The Texas Rangers broke their winning streak when they lost to them on Sunday in a 4-1 loss, but the Cubs were able to wrangle away two of three games from the American League West leaders so that’s something to be excited about.
The Mets are not far behind at 49-42, and know that they have also has their struggles trying to gain some consistency before the break, but it was hard since they dropped four of their last six outings thereby losing their footing to first-place Washington in the National League East.
But they also are trying hard to get back on track and they did so on Sunday, when New York got a decisive 5-0 victory over the Phillies thanks to Jacob deGrom’s impressive one-hit shutout. The Mets won two of three in the post-All Star Game series and will want to build on that.
Matz, has had a great start to the season at 7-1, and will want to get Chicago on their heels early. He got the loss in the Mets’ 3-2 loss to Washington on July 10, after playing seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits. His record is alright at 4-2 on the road this season, with seven starts on the road.
Fans will be waiting for the more marquee matchup of the series, which will happen on Tuesday when Arrieta (12-4, 2.68 ERA) will go up against the Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard (9-4, 2.56 ERA). Both are hungry and want to get back in the saddle after having difficulties finding their groves prior to the break.
“Not picking up a ball for four days was exactly what I needed,” said Arrieta, who had lost three of his last four decisions, which included a loss to the Mets, since June 22. “Sometimes you need that mental downtime, spending time with (son) Cooper and my family was tremendous. I picked up the ball for the first time in four or five days and threw the best pen I’ve thrown all year.”
Syndergaard will make his 19th appearance and has thrown 105 2/3 innings, he should be well rested after a strenous first half of the season, and using the All-Star break to his advantage.
“I was really fatigued the last part of the first half of the season,” he told reporters. “I just needed a little bit of a break.” He left the game on July 8 playing against the Nationals with arm fatigue.
Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-4, 3.11 ERA) should be scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday for the series’ finale, and he should face up against righty Kyle Hendricks (8-6, 2.41 ERA).
We predict an interesting series, with tonight’s opener being a tough and stretched out battle, but look for the Cubs to take two decisive and consecutive wins away from the Mets, with the Mets taking Wednesday’s match with Colon pitching.
Our Picks: Cubs over Mets in series, 2-1