CHICAGO - By the seventh inning stretch Wednesday night, a steady wind off Lake Michigan had already thinned out the crowd. Those who remained at Wrigley Field did so despite the drudgery on the field.
At one point, with the shift on, Cubs infielders Mike Olt and Emilio Bonifacio got tangled up while trying to field a grounder. Later, Mets reliever Jeurys Familia allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch.
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As the Mets dropped an unsightly decision to the Cubs, 5-4, Familia's fifth-inning gaffe proved to be the deciding moment in a game in which the team's pitchers combined to issue 15 walks.
The Mets (28-31) have dropped two straight to the Cubs (22-34), owners of the National League's worst record. Only a victory Thursday night would spare the Mets from an embarrassing sweep before capping the road trip against the Giants (38-21), who boast the league's best record.
Once more, the Mets wasted opportunities, twice leaving the bases loaded on the way to finishing 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"We're just not hitting with guys on base," manager Terry Collins said.
By the end of the fifth, both the Mets' Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Cubs' Edwin Jackson were through. They combined to allow nine hits and issue 10 walks while throwing a whopping 198 pitches.
Jackson went first after barely escaping a fifth-inning jam, holding the line with his team down just 3-2. With two outs, Jackson walked Lucas Duda to load the bases, then got Anthony Recker to end the inning with a pop up.
The Mets struck with three unearned runs in the first against Jackson. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro misplayed Curtis Granderson's grounder, costing the Cubs the chance to turn an inning-ending double play. Then, Castro doubled down on the mistake, when he botched Bobby Abreu's grounder.
Daniel Murphy scored when the ball glanced off the side of Castro's glove and trickled away. Duda followed by driving Jackson's offering to leftfield for a two-run double.
Matsuzaka, making his first start since May 25, was gifted an early 3-0 lead. He quickly went about letting it slip away.
"Overall, I didn't have my best stuff today," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "I ended up being too careful with all my pitches, which led to a lot of balls."
Justin Ruggiano doubled and Anthony Rizzo walked in the first, opening the door for Castro to earn a measure of redemption. His RBI single got the Cubs on the board before Nate Schierholtz's groundout trimmed the Mets' lead to 3-2.
Ruben Tejada answered in the fourth, blasting a solo shot off Jackson that pushed the Mets' advantage to 4-2. But it unraveled for Matsuzaka in the fifth.
With one out, Bonifacio singled and Ruggiano followed with a walk, bringing Collins out of the dugout to pull Matsuzaka for the recently promoted Dana Eveland.
"That's not the Dice-K we've been seeing," Collins said.
The Cubs wasted no time tormenting the journeyman Eveland. Rizzo singled to load the bases ahead of Castro, who lashed a two-run single to centerfield that tied it at 4. Two batters later, Eveland issued a two-out walk, which loaded the bases.
The Mets summoned the hard-throwing Familia in hopes that he'd clean up the mess. He only added to it, uncorking a wild pitch that allowed Rizzo to score from third. The Mets, who had once led 3-0, found themselves trailing 5-4.