The New York Mets are on a 100-win pace, but finding out the hardest part of such a season has nothing to do with producing any of the first 89 victories.
The Mets will look to avoid an ill-timed sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs — and remain atop the National League East — on Wednesday night, when they are slated to host the Cubs in the finale of a three-game series.
David Peterson (7-4, 3.47 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Mets against Drew Smyly (6-8, 3.57) in a battle of left-handers.
The Mets fell again to the sub-.500 Cubs Tuesday night, when Ian Happ and David Bote each hit solo homers and Adrian Sampson tossed six scoreless innings of two-hit ball to earn the victory in Chicago’s 4-1 win.
The loss, coupled with the Atlanta’s 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, reduced the Mets’ NL East lead over the Braves to a half-game. It also continued an inconsistent September against what looked like a soft schedule for New York.
The Mets (89-54) are 4-6 in their last 10 games, all of which have been against the out-of-contention Cubs, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins. The stretch has been defined by inconsistency on offense for New York, which has scored three runs or fewer six times and five runs or more four times.
After stranding 10 runners in Monday’s 5-2 loss, the Mets had just four hits Tuesday and didn’t score until Pete Alonso homered with one out in the ninth.
“I’ve said many times: Finishing off a good season is really challenging,” said Mets manager Buck Showalter, who is in his 20th full season as a big-league skipper. “It’s challenging. Because you see the finish line. You’re trying to get there and kind of sometimes get away from the things that got you there.
“And the other team sometimes doesn’t cooperate.”
In producing their first back-to-back wins since a five-game winning streak from Aug. 16-20, the Cubs (60-82) beat the top two starters in the Mets’ current rotation. After chasing 13-game winner Chris Bassitt in the fourth inning Monday, Chicago used a diverse offensive approach in defeating two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom Tuesday.
While Happ and Bote delivered the biggest hits, the Cubs also wore down the Mets by laying down three bunts, including two in their two-run fourth. A throwing error by New York catcher James McCann on Michael Hermosillo’s bunt loaded the bases two batters before Patrick Wisdom laid down a run-scoring safety squeeze.
“They don’t back down from a challenge,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “You saw that tonight against one of the better pitchers in baseball. The guys were up to the challenge. They did a nice job and won the game.”
Peterson took the loss in his most recent start last Friday, when he gave up three runs over 3 2/3 innings as the Mets fell to the Marlins, 6-3.
Smyly earned the win Friday after surrendering an unearned run over seven innings of one-hit ball in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
Peterson is 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs. Smyly is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five games (three starts) against the Mets.
–Field Level Media