When the Chicago Cubs found out they’d be making their first trip to Citi Field in early September, it seemed nearly certain they’d be facing the New York Mets in games with major playoff implications.
Instead, two of baseball’s biggest spenders have little more to play for than pride.
The Cubs’ faint wild card hopes are dwindling by the day, and they’ll try to keep them as strong as possible Friday night in their initial visit to the Mets’ new ballpark, where New York’s postseason prospects went up in smoke long ago.
Chicago (67-65) and the Mets both entered last September atop their respective divisions, and though only the Cubs wound up making the playoffs, both clubs expected to contend again in 2009.
Poor play has stung the teams with the second- and third-highest payrolls in baseball, as have some serious injuries. New York (60-74) leads the way in that category with 12 players currently on the disabled list.
Chicago’s biggest problems have come at the plate. The Cubs hit .278 last season - second in the NL - but their .254 average in 2009 is among the five worst in the major leagues.
Manager Lou Piniella’s team suffered its 12th shutout loss Thursday afternoon, managing six hits in a 5-0 defeat to the cross-town rival White Sox in the make-up of a June 16th rainout. Chicago has totaled 10 runs in its last five games.
“It seems like kind of a recurring theme and trust me, the offense, we’re trying like heck and trying to get some runs across the board, and it’s just not working out right now,” shortstop Ryan Theriot(notes) told the Cubs’ official Web site.
Wright reminded some what a healthy Mets lineup might have done in his third game back, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs to help salvage an 8-3 victory in Thursday’s series finale at Colorado.
“I felt like I was back on my game,” Wright said.
Despite winning the game, New York lost its 10th series out of the last 11.
The Cubs will send Carlos Zambrano(notes) (7-6, 3.91 ERA) to the mound seeking his first win since July 22. The three-time All-Star has been awful in two starts since recovering from back spasms that put him on the disabled list, going 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA.
Zambrano gave up four runs and 11 hits over 3 1-3 innings Sunday against the Mets in a 4-1 loss at Wrigley Field.
Piniella felt Zambrano was opening up his front shoulder too much, a mechanical issue he’s worked on with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
“Those are the things (Rothschild) worked with him on, and we’ll see if they have any effect at all,” Piniella said. “I’m hoping they will. We don’t have much margin for error anymore.”