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Mets 14, Cubs 3: Hopefully, This Is The Bottom

Man, that was ugly.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Before we talk about the awfulness that was the Cubs' 14-3 loss to the Mets Sunday afternoon, here: Have a look at the first Cubs run of the afternoon [VIDEO], an RBI single by Anthony Rizzo in the first inning. That scored Jason Heyward, who had doubled, his first extra-base hit since June 21.

The Cubs actually had the lead at that point, before the Mets came to bat.

That quickly vanished eight pitches into the bottom of the first, when Curtis Granderson homered off Jon Lester.

Then there was the second inning, and I'm sure you don't want a play-by-play. Suffice to say it involved two homers, two doubles, two singles and a walk, and all of that was off Lester before Joe Maddon had mercy on him. It was the shortest, and worst, outing of Lester's career, a surprise (to me, at least), given Lester's excellent June where he'd been named N.L. Pitcher of the Month. Lester's ERA jumped from 2.03 to 2.67 with this horrific outing and the Cubs starters' collective ERA went from 2.74 to 2.89. In fact, the total ERA for Cubs starters began this series at 2.53, so it went up almost half a run in the four games (24 earned runs in 16 innings by starters), and that's over a collective 503.1 innings by the five Cub starters.

The Mets outscored the Cubs 32-11 in this series sweep, even worse than the 21-8 beating they put on them in last year's NLCS, and the 14 runs the Cubs allowed in Sunday's game was the most in any game this year.

There really isn't much good to talk about in this one. Spencer Patton relieved Lester and had the longest outing of his big-league career, 3.1 innings. He wasn't good either, allowing six hits and three runs, including a homer to Wilmer Flores, his second of the game. Patton required 81 pitches to record eight outs and I'd expect him to be heading back to Iowa tomorrow, as he certainly wouldn't be available for at least a couple of days.

After the Cub sixth, Maddon emptied the bench and let Joel Peralta eat up some innings, perhaps among the last he'll throw for the Cubs, as someone is going to have to go to make room for Adam Warren's return when he starts Wednesday against the Reds. That decision will probably be easier after Peralta also got hit hard, giving up a two-run homer to Kelly Johnson. That blast made it the second game in this series the Mets hit five home runs, tying a club record for most homers in a home game.

Peralta got handshakes as Joe removed him, perhaps signaling that this appearance was it for him (with the Cubs, at least). He was replaced by Miguel Montero, who became the first Cubs position player to pitch this year. That led to this bit of Twitter humor from a Mets beat writer:

Montero gave up four hits and a run, including a single to Flores, who had six hits on the afternoon. It was the second six-hit game in the big leagues in as many days (C.J. Cron of the Angels did it Saturday against the Red Sox) and first against the Cubs since May 25, 2009, when Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates accomplished the feat. There's a bit of history involved in this year's six-hit games:

Jeimer Candelario, called up to make his major-league debut, got his first big-league hit, a single off Noah Syndergaard, after previously looking totally overmatched against Syndergaard, who struck him out twice earlier in the game. Congratulations to Candelario. Hopefully, that's the first of many, many hits from him in a Cubs uniform.

Willson Contreras got the Cubs a consolation run in the ninth with a solo homer, his fourth. Javier Baez' ninth-inning double gave him a three-hit game, so that's good. He scored on a wild pitch.

Let's try to keep some perspective. The Cubs have lost 10 of their last 14 and looked bad doing it. They've been outscored 65-27 in the 10 losses and this 11-run loss, the worst of the year, dropped the team run differential to +149... which is still the best in baseball by more than 60 runs. If it makes you feel any better, the high-flying Indians, who had a franchise-record 14-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, also lost big Sunday, 17-1 to the Blue Jays.

This is still a very good team, one that's been beset by injuries, though that doesn't explain the poor starting-pitching performance. As Jim Deshaies said late in the TV broadcast (yes, I hung with it for the whole game), the front office and Joe Maddon will have to sit down and determine whether this is a temporary glitch or something they might have to address by making deals. At this point I don't think they'll do anything in the trade market until after the All-Star break, when (presumably) everyone will be healthy.

The Cubs finish the mathematical first half (the All-Star break is more generally considered "first half") at 51-30, on pace for 102 wins. That's still really, really good! The Cardinals started late Sunday afternoon, so pending the result of their game, the Cubs still have a division lead of 8½ games. The good news there is, per this chart, all but one team that had that large a lead after 81 games in the divisional play era at least made the playoffs:

As you can see, of the 20 previous teams to do that, 12 of them at least made the World Series and four won it (the two 1995 WS teams both did it), the most recent being Theo's 2007 Red Sox. Who, incidentally, had an 11½-game lead a couple of times, but wound up 96-66, winning their division by just two games.

And then they went 11-3 in the postseason, sweeping the World Series.

Feel better now?

You, and the Cubs, might feel better starting tomorrow, when the woeful Reds, who nearly got no-hit Sunday, come to Wrigley Field. We'll see a pitching rematch of last Wednesday's game in Cincinnati: Kyle Hendricks against Cody Reed.