(Updated: UPDATES sentence 3 with Cubs standing)
The Chicago Cubs have watched their National League Central lead shrink to two games and, with 11 contests remaining against the two teams chasing them, they need as much cushion as they can get. The Cubs will try to bolster their advantage when they host the struggling New York Mets for a three-game series starting Tuesday.
The Cubs have lost six of their last eight following a six-game winning streak, and their National League Central lead has dwindled to two games over St. Louis and 2 1/2 over Milwaukee. “I think you enjoy the pennant race,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters. “Enjoy this whole thing. We’re in a position once again to go back to the playoffs. That’s something you never want to take for granted.” The Cubs have lost four straight at home for the first time since June 7-10 after being outscored 20-3 in a three-game sweep against the Brewers over the weekend. Chicago hopes to get the offense back on track in support of left-hander Jose Quintana, who is 4-0 in five starts at Wrigley Field since the Cubs acquired him from the crosstown Chicago White Sox.
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, SNY (New York), CSN Chicago
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mets RH Robert Gsellman (6-6, 5.44 ERA) vs. Cubs LH Jose Quintana (9-11, 4.32)
Gsellman ended a six-start winless streak when he beat Philadelphia last time out. The 24-year-old limited the Phillies to three runs (two earned) over six innings, which was just his second quality start in his last seven outings. Gsellman has struggled to a 2-3 record and a 7.44 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) on the road this season.
Quintana turned in his best outing since his Cubs debut Wednesday, as he threw six shutout innings in a 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh. The 28-year-old is 5-3 with a 4.03 ERA in 10 starts since joining the Cubs. Quintana faced the Mets for the first time last season and took a hard-luck loss despite allowing one run and six hits over seven frames.
1. Cubs C Willson Contreras is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday after pinch-hitting Sunday in his return from a month-long stint on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
2. Mets SS Jose Reyes (467) is two extra-base hits shy of tying Darryl Strawberry for the second-most in franchise history.
3. The Mets have won seven of 10 meetings with the Cubs over the past two seasons, including two of three this season.
PREDICTION: Cubs 6, Mets 4