Cubs-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

General manager Sandy Alderson picked a tough time to discuss the current state of the New York Mets with season ticket holders, as a rough homestand has extended the team's long slump.

New York looks to get back on track before beginning an 11-game road trip while preventing the Chicago Cubs from winning their fourth straight and completing a three-game sweep Sunday.

Alderson, hired in October 2010, addressed some devoted fans prior to Saturday's 5-2 loss that was the 10th in 12 games for the Mets (24-39). New York hasn't finished above .500 since 2008.

''At some point, the best thing you can do is have a little patience," Alderson said. "Unfortunately, I've been preaching that for 2 1/2 years, and it's wearing thin. But we're almost there.''

It hasn't seemed that way lately, with New York dropping six of seven on its homestand. The Mets, who start their trip Monday with a five-game series against first-place Atlanta, demoted three players to the minors after last Sunday's 8-4 loss to lowly Miami.

One of them was first baseman Ike Davis, who hit 32 homers last season. New York has been outscored 61-38 while batting .210 over its last 12.

''No one is having any fun,'' third baseman David Wright said. ''It's a humbling and cruel game. We are at a point where we have to dig deep and find what motivates each individual as a player. The last thing I want is for guys to get caught up in playing through the motions. We have to finish strong - there are a lot of guys here who are part of the future.''

Chicago has won its third consecutive series in Queens and is on the verge of sweeping the Mets for the first time since 2004 at Shea Stadium.

Starlin Castro, hitting .117 (7 for 60) with a .172 on-base percentage over his last 15, had a two-run double in a three-run eighth inning Sunday.

The Cubs (28-38) have scored 17 runs during their three-game winning streak after totaling 11 while dropping five of their previous six.

"We're taking advantage of situations now (during at-bats) that we haven't for a long piece of the season,'' manager Dale Sveum said.

Chicago, winner of six of seven at Citi Field, will look to extend its streak with help from Matt Garza, who was roughed up his last time out.

Garza (1-1, 6.26 ERA) gave up a career-worst nine runs in five innings of a 12-2 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday. He's allowed at least four runs in three of his five starts since coming off the disabled list.

He said he's still trying to get on the same page with catcher Welington Castillo.

"I need to take control and I need to guide him through it," Garza told the team's official website after his last outing. "I'm not doing what I'm supposed to do. I'm going to get ready in five days and try to make it right."

The right-hander had a solid start the only time he faced the Mets, giving up three runs in seven innings of the Cubs' 10-6, 11-inning victory Sept. 11, 2011.

New York right-hander Jeremy Hefner (1-6, 4.11) allowed four runs in four innings of an 8-2 defeat to the Cubs on May 18 in his only career start against them.

The Mets have lost 11 of Hefner's 12 starts this season, though he has a 2.52 ERA in four outings since losing to the Cubs.

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