The New York Mets haven’t won a series since the end of July, but they have a good chance to accomplish that feat Saturday if Nelson Figueroa(notes) can repeat his previous performance against the Chicago Cubs.
Figueroa will attempt to beat the Cubs for the second time in less than a week in the second of a three-game series at Citi Field.
Despite having the second-highest payroll in the majors, the Mets (61-74) have struggled through an injury-ravaged season. As those injuries piled up last month, so did the losses.
New York is 12-22 since winning three of four at home over Colorado from July 27-30, and has dropped eight of 10 series while splitting the other two.
One of those rare wins, however, came Sunday at Wrigley Field, where Figueroa (2-3, 4.50 ERA) struck out a career-high 10 batters, allowed one run over seven innings and added an RBI single in a 4-1 victory.
The right-hander had previously lost five consecutive starts dating back to May 6, 2008, including three this season, and three in a row against the Cubs.
“I took advantage of some aggressive swings,” he told the Mets’ official Web site. “I was able to do some of the things I do well - get ahead and expand the zone.”
Given the way Chicago has hit since its previous meeting with Figueroa, it could experience deja vu Saturday.
Chicago (67-66), however, won’t have Alfonso Soriano(notes) in the lineup any time soon as Piniella announced Friday that the outfielder is out indefinitely with a sore left knee. Soriano, hitting .241 in his eighth consecutive 20-homer season, was batting .164 in his last 17 games but went 3 for 3 with a go-ahead, three-run homer Friday against the Mets.
Piniella will start right-hander Rich Harden(notes) (8-8, 4.19), who will try to bounce back from his worst start in the second half. Harden went 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his first eight starts after the All-Star break before giving up five runs and a season-high six walks over five innings in Monday night’s 5-3 loss to Houston.
Minnesota had reportedly claimed the right-hander off waivers before the outing, but Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said there was no serious trade discussions.
While he said the rumors were on his mind, Harden said it wasn’t to blame for his poor start.
“You just can’t ignore it,” he said . “The whole thing was ridiculous. It had nothing to do with my performance today. Can’t make excuses.”
Harden did not get a decision in his only start against the Mets in a 7-6 loss Sept. 25 at Shea Stadium. While he’s 5-2 with a 2.02 ERA away from home, the Cubs are 3-10 on the road since Aug. 5.
A loss would drop Chicago to .500 for the first time since it was 43-43 at the All-Star break.