What Cubs-Mets Series Will Tell Us About Chicago

The Chicago Cubs have lost eight consecutive games against the New York Mets, but they’ll have a chance to exact some revenge on the team as the two powerhouses square off at Wrigley Field this week.

The series gets underway on Monday night, as Steven Matz takes on Jon Lester in matchup of talented left-handed pitchers, but more importantly for the Cubs, the series represents a measuring stick for where they are as a team with two weeks to go until the MLB trade deadline.

The Cubs had a rough go of things as the All-Star break approached, watching their divisional lead shrink down to seven and a half games over the St. Louis Cardinals, but they rebounded nicely coming out of their hiatus with a series victory over the Texas Rangers. The team’s bats still aren’t quite where they need to be, but their starting pitching was solid in all three games of the series, and their bullpen kept a talented Rangers lineup in check.

Both of those things will need to continue if the Cubs are going to have success against the Mets, but the big question is whether or not Chicago can contend with New York’s dominant pitching. The team is without Matt Harvey after the right-handed ace opted for surgery that ended his season, and both matz and Noah Syndergaard are dealing with bone spurs in their elbows, but they still have plenty of weapons in their rotation.

Syndergaard, who made the All-Star team with a 2.56 ERA and a 9-4 record thus far this season, is arguably the top name in their quintet of starters, and he’ll be facing the Cubs on Tuesday. He allowed just one run against the Cubs in seven innings of work earlier this season, and in last year’s playoffs he picked up another win against the North Siders as he struck out nine batters and walked just one in a Game 1 triumph over Chicago.

The Cubs will get to miss Jacob deGrom, who has the best ERA out of the five Mets starters, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have an easy time with the other pitchers sandwiching Syndergaard in the rotation. Matz gave up three earned runs in seven innings in his last start, and Bartolo Colon, Wednesday’s starter, has a 3.11 ERA and an 8-4 record in 18 starts this season.

With those kinds of pitchers, the Mets are an obvious threat to the Cubs, but the team’s roster construction ideally should give them a better chance of figuring out the vexing hurlers. Players like Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward were brought in specifically to lessen the Cubs’ reliance on the long ball, and players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have also made strides forward in that department thus far this season.

Add to that the infusion of talented youngsters like Willson Contreras and the solid clutch hitting of Addison Russell, and the Cubs should be equipped to handle the Mets if their paths should cross in the postseason again.

Teams like the Mets are going to be tough for the Cubs, and other squads like the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants share similar strong rotations and solid lineups, but with the changes Chicago has made, the team has to be hoping that they can prove that they have what it takes to be the class of a top-heavy National League.

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