New York (53-36) at Chicago (34-54)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 60° F
  • Game info: 2:20 pm EDT Fri Jul 14, 2006
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Steve Trachsel looks to win his seventh straight start when the first-place New York Mets open the second half of their season against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday.

Trachsel (8-4, 4.67 ERA) set a career high with his sixth consecutive victory when he allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-5 win over Pittsburgh on July 6.

The 35-year-old right-hander has a 4.67 ERA during the streak, but the Mets (53-36) have scored at least five runs in each game to improve to 12-5 in his 17 starts.

“I heard one guy on TV saying I wasn’t really pitching well right now,” said Trachsel, who made just six starts last season due to a lower back injury and began 2006 with two wins in his first 11 outings. “I was like, ‘I don’t really know what else I can do.”’

Mets manager Willie Randolph has been impressed with Trachsel’s performance.

“He seems to get a lot of run support, which is nice,” Randolph said. “He walks that tightrope once in a while, but he’s been making pitches when he has to.”

New York, which leads the NL East by 12 games over Philadelphia, entered the All-Star break with the league’s best record.

“If you had told us in spring training this is where we’d be at the break, we all would have signed on,” said left-hander Tom Glavine, one of six All-Stars for the Mets. “But it doesn’t mean anything yet. We have to come back and finish what we’ve started.”

Trachsel is just 1-3 with a 6.20 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs, who selected him in the eighth round of the 1991 draft. He pitched with Chicago from 1993-99 and made his only All-Star team in 1996.

The Cubs (34-54) were uncertain whether manager Dusty Baker would be on the bench following the break, but that notion was somewhat silenced when general manager Jim Hendry continued to back the skipper Wednesday.

“My stance has never changed,” Hendry said. “Jim Hendry is operating under the same situation all along. There was never any comment by me that there would be a decision over the All-Star break. … Nothing has changed.”

What has changed is the promise of a Chicago team that went from a challenger in the NL Central to a club that has been decimated by injuries and inconsistent play.

Right-handers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were on the disabled list for most of the first half, as was reigning batting champion Derrek Lee. The string of bad luck continued at the All-Star game when Carlos Zambrano, the club’s lone representative, was hit in the right elbow by a fungo bat before the game.

X-rays were negative on Zambrano and his status for his next start, scheduled for Saturday against Glavine, is unknown.

Greg Maddux (7-9, 4.89) will take the mound in the series opener Friday for the Cubs, who are trying to win a season-high four in a row as they open a six-game homestand. Chicago owns the worst home record in the majors at 14-25, and has lost 12 of its last 14 games at Wrigley.

Maddux had his best outing in nearly a month his last time out when he allowed two runs in six innings, but he suffered his fourth straight defeat, 2-0 at Milwaukee on July 6.

The 40-year-old right-hander began the season with five consecutive wins, but is just 2-9 with a 6.43 ERA in his last 13 appearances, allowing 101 hits in 77 innings over that span.

Maddux, however, has thrived against New York. He is 34-17 with a 3.22 ERA in 62 starts against the Mets, his most victories against any team.

A win Friday would tie Maddux with Eddie Plank for 12th on the all-time list with 326.

The Cubs are 11-7 against the Mets since the start of 2003, including an 8-1 mark at Wrigley.

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Starting Pitchers

S. Trachsel Bal vs. G. Maddux LAD
15-8 Record 15-14
4.97 ERA 4.20
79 K 117
78 BB 37
1.60 WHIP 1.22