Cubs-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

Anthony Rizzo is one of the reasons behind the Chicago Cubs' recent surge.

Reed Johnson is starting to provide another.

Rizzo and Johnson look to help the Cubs to their ninth win in 12 games Saturday against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Rizzo has been as good or possibly better than advertised since he was recalled from Triple-A Iowa last week. The 22-year-old first baseman is hitting .375 with four homers and nine RBIs while reaching base safely in all 10 games, helping the Cubs (32-51) to seven wins.

He's faced New York (45-39) three times and is 7 for 13 with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs in those matchups.

"For 10 games, he's been pretty good," manager Dale Sveum said. "To sit on pitches like he does, and have an educated guess like he does is impressive."

Rizzo turned in his best performance yet on Friday, collecting a career-best four hits with a homer and three RBIs in an 8-7 win over the Mets, Chicago's fifth in six meetings dating to last season.

Johnson was also a key contributor Friday, hitting a leadoff homer while matching his career high with four hits. The center fielder was 4 for 17 over his previous nine games before pacing Chicago to a season-high 18 hits in the opener.

"It was awesome, right from Reed Johnson's home run," Rizzo said. "And it carried over. Hitting is contagious no matter where you are."

The Cubs will give the ball to Jeff Samardzija (6-7, 4.77 ERA), who is looking to build on one of his best performances of the season. The right-hander struck out a career-high 11 while yielding one run and four hits in seven innings of a 4-1 win at Atlanta on Monday. He was 0-4 with a 12.27 ERA in his previous four starts.

"It's about time, you know?" Samardzija said. "I just thought I took my time from pitch to pitch. I thought I made the right pitch selection based on the previous pitch."

Samardzija's rough stretch prior to beating the Braves included one of his worst outings of the season in a 17-1 home loss to the Mets on June 27. He was tagged for a career-high nine runs with four walks in 4 1-3 innings.

The Mets scored three times in the ninth inning Friday and had the potential winning run on base but Carlos Marmol snared Lucas Duda's liner and turned it into a game-ending double play.

"It's nice to be able pat yourself on the back a little bit, but it doesn't mean much," third baseman David Wright said. "We still lost the game. Didn't really do too much well, besides the ninth inning. We obviously need to clean it up the next two games before we go into the break."

Dillon Gee (5-7, 4.34) takes the mound for New York looking to avoid a third straight losing start.

The right-hander lost for the fourth time in five starts, giving up four runs - two earned - over six innings of an 8-3 road defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

He wasn't any better in a 5-3 loss at Chicago in his previous outing June 26, surrendering four runs and nine hits in five innings.

Gee, who has never faced the Cubs at home, is 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in his last five starts there.

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