Cubs complete sweep of Mets
CHICAGO — Anthony Rizzo and the Chicago Cubs took care of this week’s preliminaries by completing a sweep of the New York Mets on Thursday.
Now they will turn full attention to the main event: a weekend series at Wrigley Field against the St. Louis Cardinals, one of two teams chasing the Cubs for the NL Central Division title.
Rizzo went 3-for-4 and hit his career-high-tying 32nd home run on Thursday, leading Chicago to a 14-6 victory over the Mets.
“It feels good, we played a good series, we didn’t overlook this series,” said Rizzo, who also hit 32 home runs in 2014 and 2016. “We know we have a big series coming this weekend, we’re going to take it one at a time. This time of the year, it’s probably the first time we’ve played games this close, this meaningful since I’ve been here.”
The Cubs (80-66) hold a three-game lead in the National League Central over both the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jon Jay and Kyle Schwarber had two hits apiece as the Cubs pounded out 14 hits, including a Jason Heyward homer, in easily overcoming 3-0 and 5-3 deficits.
Chicago averaged 13 runs per game in the series.
First baseman Dominic Smith was 2-for-3 with a solo homer for the Mets (63-83), and Travis d’Arnaud also went deep.
Right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng, the Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the year, started and worked just three innings in his big league debut. He gave up five runs on five hits.
“I was a little bit nervous at the first pitch, and after that I felt more comfortable,” he said. “Today in (the) bullpen I didn’t feel the cutter was that good, but (the) breaking ball and curveball and changeup felt pretty good.”
Chicago left-hander Mike Montgomery (6-8), originally slated to start the game, tossed two scoreless frames for the win.
Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (6-5) pitched three-plus innings, giving up eight runs (seven earned) en route to his second loss in three games.
“It’s been a rough season for me. It’s been a rough season for a lot of guys,” Lugo said. “I feel like lately I’ve been throwing the ball well — not so much tonight — but I’m going to try to get back to what I was doing the last few weeks and finish the season strong.”
The Mets grabbed a 1-0 first-inning lead as leadoff batter Jose Reyes walked, stole second and reached third on an error before scoring on Asdrubal Cabrera’s sacrifice to left.
New York added two runs in the second as Reyes drove in Amed Rosario with a two-out single and Brandon Nimmo doubled to center to drive in Reyes.
The Cubs erupted for three second-inning runs to tie the game. Heyward’s fielder’s choice grounder to short drove in Schwarber from third. Catcher Taylor Davis collected his first major league hit with an infield single, and Javier Baez scored on the play on a throwing error. Tseng’s fielder’s choice grounder to short then scored Heyward from third.
The Mets collected two homers on consecutive pitches to claim a 5-3 lead in the third inning. Smith opened with a leadoff home run to right for his 19th homer of the season. d’Arnaud followed with his 12th of the season on Tseng’s next pitch, the seventh time this season New York has hit back-to-back homers.
Rizzo replied in the Cubs’ third with a solo shot on Lugo’s first pitch, trimming the Mets’ lead to 5-4.
Jay doubled off the wall with none out in the fourth to bring home Alex Avila, who entered to catch in the top of the inning. That tied the game 5-5, and the Cubs grabbed a 7-5 lead as Kris Bryant’s two-base hit to center plated Montgomery and Jay.
That was it for Lugo, who was replaced by left-handed reliever Josh Smoker.
“His changeup wasn’t real effective tonight, which it always has been,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “It just looked like he was struggling making pitches. ... We needed some innings tonight, and we didn’t get them.”
Smoker was greeted by Rizzo’s no-out, two-base hit into the right field corner that brought home Bryant. Rizzo stole third and came home on Ian Happ’s sacrifice fly for a 9-5 lead.
Rosario left after the fifth inning with a hip flexor injury, and d’Arnaud departed with a twisted right knee.
The Cubs added five runs in the sixth. Pinch hitter Albert Almora Jr. greeted Mets reliever Paul Sewald with a two-out double to bring home Jay and Bryant. Heyward then clubbed his 10th homer of the year to drive in Almora and Baez for a 14-5 lead.
Mets pinch hitter Tomas Nido collected his first big league hit and RBI in the ninth, singling home Juan Lagares.
NOTES: New York is 30-42 away from home and 4-13 in its past 17 road games, including seven straight losses ... The Mets travel to Atlanta to open a three-game series Friday. New York sends RHP Rafael Montero (5-9, 5.05 ERA) against Braves LHP Sean Newcomb (2-8, 4.38 ERA). ... The Cubs remain home to open their next-to-last Wrigley Field regular-season series against St. Louis. RHP John Lackey (11-11, 4.65 ERA) goes against Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez (11-10, 3.33 ERA) on Friday. ... After 146 games in 2016, the Cubs were 93-53 and had clinched the NL Central title overnight with a 6-2 Cardinals loss at San Francisco. ... Chicago has 206 home runs so far this season, the fourth-highest total in team history and 29 off the franchise record set in 2004.