LEADING OFF: Wild-card hopefuls set for key weekend seriesChicago Cubs' Victor Caratini, right, celebrates with teammate Javier Baez (9) after Baez and Kris Bryant also scored on his seventh-inning three-run home run during a baseball game against the New York Mets, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Like something out of ''Groundhog Day''?
''Kinda was, for three days,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
Noted Cubs fan Bill Murray - and star of the popular 1993 movie - certainly agreed. He was in the clubhouse after a 4-1 win Thursday that completed a sweep.
''Very professional series,'' Murray said.
Caratini homered twice off Mets ace Jacob deGrom, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive in the seventh inning as Chicago left Citi Field with three straight wins.
Jon Lester pitched six effective innings to help Chicago increase its lead for the second NL wild-card spot to 2 1/2 games over Philadelphia.
The Mets lost their sixth in a row, all at home. Full of hope a week ago, they dropped five games behind Chicago.
''That one stings,'' deGrom said.
Caratini lofted a solo homer in the second that made it 1-all. That was the Cubs' only hit until they struck in the seventh.
Kris Bryant hit a one-out single off shortstop Amed Rosario's glove, and Javier Baez grounded a single up the middle. Caratini fell behind 1-2, fouled off two pitches and then pulled a line drive into the second deck in right field.
''I was just trying to be aggressive. I know he attacks a lot,'' Caratini said through a translator.
The crowd of 38,389 fell silent as the Cubs backup catcher rounded the bases with his ninth home run of the season and second career multihomer game. He became the fourth player to connect twice in a game against deGrom, joining Mitch Garver this year, Giancarlo Stanton in 2016 and Mark Teixeira in 2015.
''I felt like I had really good stuff,'' deGrom said. ''Couple soft-hit balls there after I got the first out in the seventh just found their way through. And then the home run. So it's definitely frustrating.''
DeGrom (8-8) had sparkled since late May, with a 1.88 ERA in that span. But the NL Cy Young Award winner got little run support, a familiar scenario for the All-Star righty.
DeGrom walked with his head down to the dugout when the inning ended and headed straight for a tunnel to the clubhouse.
Caratini got three hits as the Cubs won their seventh in a row at Citi Field since last year, their best winning streak while visiting the Mets since taking seven straight at Shea Stadium in 1991.
This was Chicago's fifth consecutive road victory, a nifty achievement for a team that is 28-39 overall away from Wrigley Field.
''This exemplifies there's nothing wrong with us. I don't know why we've had such a diffcult time,'' Maddon said.
DeGrom had gone 17 straight starts without allowing more than three runs. ... Mets rookie Pete Alonso has reached base in majors-high 24 consecutive games. ... The Cubs matched their longest road winning streak of the season. Their next road game is Sept. 5 at Milwaukee.
Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo (back tightness) hasn't played since Saturday. Maddon said he didn't expect Rizzo would be ready for the series opener against Milwaukee, adding, ''I don't have any kind of specific date'' for his return. ... All-Star catcher Willson Contreras (strained right hamstring) is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment. Maddon estimated Contreras could rejoin the team in ''a week or so.'' ... OF Kyle Schwarber didn't start and struck out as a pinch-hitter. LF Tony Kemp started in his place and made three straight nice catches early in the game.
Mets: 2B Robinson Cano (torn left hamstring) hit against a Triple-A pitcher and ran the bases before batting practice.
Cubs: A short turnaround for an afternoon start at Wrigley Field, with LHP Jose Quintana (11-8, 4.05 ERA) vs. Milwaukee RHP Chase Anderson (6-3, 4.34). Quintana is 1-2 with a 7.08 ERA in four starts against the Brewers this year. Milwaukee is four games behind Chicago.
Mets: RHP Zack Wheeler (9-7, 4.46) starts at Philadelphia vs. RHP Aaron Nola (12-4, 3.53). Wheeler has given up 14 runs on 21 hits and seven walks in his last three starts, spanning 16 innings.
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