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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Mets Series Preview

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Halfway through the 2016 season, we have our first rematch of the 2015 NLCS.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

So, here we are. Facing the team that eliminated the Cubs in last year's postseason.

The Mets have struggled at times this year due to injuries. Steven Schreiber of our SB Nation Mets site Amazin' Avenue updates us on his team and how they stand going into this set:

It's been months since the Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS but it feels like years with how poorly the Mets have played for two months. After a strong April, the Mets have played sub-.500 ball in May and June, while getting hit with a deluge of injuries.

The big problem is the offense, which has been just as frustrating as it was a year ago at this time. Despite sitting around the middle of the pack in wRC+ as a team and hitting a lot of home runs, the Mets' offense has greatly underperformed in the run scoring department due to their atrocious record with runners on base and in scoring position. The offense has been hit hard with injuries all year, though typically of the nagging variety. Curtis Granderson is currently a bit banged up, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker have battled issues much of the year, and Travis d'Arnaud, Lucas Duda, and David Wright have had lengthy stints on the DL. All that plus the sophomore slump of Michael Conforto certainly hasn't helped matters.

While the offense has been bad, the pitching has gone from strength to mess. Matt Harvey's been off since spring training, struggling with mechanics and velocity issues. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, both huge April and May bright spots, were diagnosed with bone spurs in their elbows last week which have affected their performance. Even Jacob deGrom has seen his velocity drop, despite the numbers looking good. Bartolo Colon has at least been a bright spot and may be indestructible.

Frankly, the team right now is a mess and yet they were right in it before the Nationals swept them out of DC the last 3 days. There's still plenty of season left but the Mets are going to need another bat and some health asap. Please go easy on us this weekend, Cubs!

Fun fact

The first three games of this series are on the same calendar dates as the Cubs/Mets series in New York last year. The Cubs won all three of those 2015 games, two by shutout, and allowed just one run in the third game.

Pitching matchups

Thursday: John Lackey, RHP (7-4, 3.29 ERA, 1.037 WHIP, 3.41 FIP) vs. Steven Matz, LHP (7-3, 3.29 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 2.94 FIP)

Friday: Jason Hammel, RHP (7-4, 2.58 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, 3.88 FIP) vs. Jacob deGrom, RHP (3-4, 2.67 ERA, 1.123 WHIP, 3.00 FIP)

Saturday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (12-2. 2,10 ERA, 1.019 WHIP, 2.76 FIP) vs. Bartolo Colon, RHP (6-4, 2.86 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, 3.68 FIP)

Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (9-3, 2.03 ERA, 0.969 WHIP, 3.33 FIP) vs. Noah Syndergaard, RHP (8-3, 2.49 ERA, 1.064 WHIP, 1.91 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Thursday: 6:10 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and New York markets)

Friday: 6:10 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network (outside Chicago and New York markets)

Saturday: 6:15 p.m. CT, Fox-TV (regional -- coverage map)

Sunday: 12:10 p.m. CT, WGN

Prediction

As Steve Schreiber notes, the Mets are offensively challenged right now, a very different team than the one that outscored the Cubs 21-8 in the NLCS sweep. The Mets currently rank 14th in the National League in runs, ahead of only the woeful Braves. They've stayed afloat because of their pitching, which has allowed the second-fewest runs in the N.L. (272 -- the Cubs are best at 242). It's gotten worse lately: only nine runs in their last five games.

So this will be a pitching-rich series, and I expect low-scoring games. But the Cubs will continue the winning they began in Cincinnati and win three of four.

Up next

The Cubs get to have some holiday fun with the Reds at Wrigley Field. A three-game series begins Independence Day, Monday, July 4.