The New York Mets’ recent success against the top two teams in the NL Central has them on the verge of matching their longest winning streak of the season.
The Mets look to win their fourth consecutive game as they continue a weekend set with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
NL East-leading New York (62-47) has had six four-game winning streaks this season, most recently from June 27-30. Chicago (57-51), meanwhile, will try to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since dropping six straight from May 27-June 2. The Cubs are 35-20 since then, but trail Milwaukee by one game for the NL Central lead.
After taking the final two games of their series in Milwaukee, the Mets continued their winning ways Friday. Carlos Delgado had an RBI double off Ryan Dempster to break a 2-2 tie as New York scored four times in the ninth inning en route to a 6-2 win over the Cubs.
Delgado, who is 4-for-9 with two doubles in his last three games, walked his first four times to the plate Friday. The Mets took advantage of a season-high 11 walks allowed Cubs pitchers, including seven from starter and 14-game winner Carlos Zambrano, who left in the sixth inning due to heat-related cramping.
“When we score runs, it is usually because we’re patient and make the pitchers work,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We waited a while before we got some big hits.”
John Maine (12-5, 2.92 ERA) looks to win his third straight start for the Mets. He allowed one hit in five scoreless innings of a rain-shortened 5-0 win over Washington on Sunday.
“He was very efficient,” Randolph said. “He’s been our stopper and that’s what stoppers do.”
The right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his last eight starts, but is 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in three career games - two starts - against the Cubs. The loss came when he allowed three runs in five innings of a 10-1 defeat on May 15.
This will be Maine’s first start at Wrigley Field.
Chicago turns to left-hander Ted Lilly (11-5, 3.60) to help end its skid as he looks to bounce back from his first loss since June 5. Lilly had won six straight starts before allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings of a 4-1 home loss to Philadelphia on Monday.
“I’m disappointed in my performance,” said Lilly, who is 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in three games - two starts - against the Mets, but hasn’t faced them since 2002 while with the New York Yankees.
All-Star Derrek Lee went 2-for-4 with his 12th homer Friday for the Cubs, and is 6-for-12 with four doubles and three RBIs in his last three contests.
Friday’s loss marked the second straight game in which Chicago’s bullpen let a close game get out of hand in the ninth. With the Cubs trailing by a run in the ninth on Thursday, Will Ohman allowed three runs in a 10-6 loss to Philadelphia.
Dempster, who remains the Cubs closer, has allowed four earned runs and 11 hits in six innings since coming off the disabled list with a strained left oblique on July 20. He is 0-2 with a 60.75 ERA in two games against the Mets this season.
“If I didn’t face the Mets this year, I’d have a heck of a year,” Dempster said.