CHICAGO - Michael Cuddyer flipped his bat away and began the frustrating walk back to the dugout.

He had just lined out to second baseman Addison Russell, stranding the last of the team-high five runners he left on base in the Mets' 6-5 loss to the Cubs Thursday.

"You've got to perform," Cuddyer said. "There's no question about that. Quite frankly, on my part, I haven't got the job done to this point. I need to."

Cuddyer, 36, was signed to a two-year, $21-million deal to give the Mets a threat in the middle of the lineup, but he is off to one of the slowest starts of his career.

After taking an 0-for-4, Cuddyer is hitting .233/.298/.358 with three homers and 13 RBIs. In 11 games in May, Cuddyer is 8-for-39 with one extra-base hit.

Hitting coach Kevin Long downplayed any long-term concerns about the former NL batting champion. "He's in a good frame of mind," Long said. "He's not panicking."

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Lagares close

The Mets expect centerfielder Juan Lagares back in the starting lineup Friday night against the Brewers.

Lagares has missed the last three games with a strained muscle in his right side. He suffered the injury on May 5 while making a diving catch, and it worsened and forced him out of action.

"Will it be 100 percent? Probably not," Terry Collins said. "But it will be a heck of a lot more improved."

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Extra bases

Lucas Duda went 2-for-4 against lefties, upping his season average to .410 (16-for-39) vs. them. He has four extra-base hits against them this season, matching his total from last year, when he hit .180 against them . . . Johnny Monell, the Mets' third catcher, is slated to start Friday night.