Gone are the days when the Mets and Cubs were NL East rivals. “Second wild-card spot rivals” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that’s what will be on tap beginning Tuesday as Chicago visits Citi Field for the first of a three-game series.
The Mets and Cubs were both swept in three-game series over the weekend, the Mets by the Braves and the Cubs by the Nationals. The difference is the Cubs still hold the second NL wild-card spot while the Mets are on the outside looking up.
The Mets enter Tuesday two games behind Chicago. The Phillies are a game back of Chicago, and the Brewers are only a half-game behind the Mets. So the Mets have to take care of business against the Cubs, but also they have to keep one eye on the scoreboard to see what the other wild-card contenders are up to.
“It’s huge,” J.D. Davis said of the series against Chicago. “It’s going to be one of the more important series coming up. If we could have won the series against Atlanta or at least scratched [Sunday] for one, it would have been huge for us.”
After sweeping a three-game series against the Indians, the Mets lost three close games to the Braves: 2-1 in 14 innings on Friday, 9-5 on Saturday after Pete Alonso’s franchise record-tying three-run homer had given them a 5-4 lead, and 2-1 on Sunday when Joe Panik grounded out with the tying and go-ahead runs on base for the final out.
“That one big hit -- just short,” Davis said. “Tough at-bat for JoJo up there. Tuesday he can come up with the big hit. Just got to regroup, get some rest and get ready for Tuesday.”
Atlanta left town with a six-game lead over the Nationals in the NL East. The Mets were 12 games back. So other than the three games left against the Braves on the schedule – the final three of the regular season – the Mets don’t have to worry about Atlanta for a while.
That’s good news since the Mets are 5-11 against the Braves.
“If we had taken just one in that series, you leave these six games 4-2,” Mickey Callaway said. “Instead, we’re 3-3. So we need to figure the Braves out, that’s for sure.”
The Mets split a four-game series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field in June.
“We played well in Chicago,” Davis said. “There were some hiccups that kept us from winning the whole series, but we’re confident.”
Marcus Stroman is scheduled to open the series against righthander Yu Darvish. Stroman left his last start after four innings with a tight hamstring, but the righthander has vowed to make Tuesday’s start. Callaway said on Sunday that Stroman was “very likely” to be OK to pitch.
After the Cubs series, the Mets go on the road to Philadelphia and Washington. After that, 17 of their final 23 games will be at Citi Field, where the Mets are 37-24. Of course, they were 37-21 before Atlanta stormed through Flushing.
“We’ve had series like that before this year,” Callaway said. “It is frustrating in the moment, but we have to let it go like we’ve done a great job with everything else this year and focus on the next game. You do get frustrated in the moment right after the game. You’ve got to regroup on the off day and understand who the opponent is coming in and get the job done there.”
Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.43 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (7-11, 3.18)
Notable: Cubs backup C Jonathan Lucroy is 4-for-5 lifetime against Stroman.
Kyle Hendricks (9-9, 3.20) vs. Noah Syndergaard (9-6, 3.71)
Notable: Hendricks is 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA (one earned run in 19 1⁄3 innings) in three career starts vs. Mets.
Jon Lester (10-9. 4.49) vs. Jacob deGrom (8-7, 2.56)
Notable: Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is 10-for-23 (.435) with one HR lifetime against deGrom.