Cubs-Mets Preview - NBC Sports

Cubs-Mets Preview
July 2, 2015, 1:16 am

Anthony Rizzo stood on third base and shouted into the Chicago Cubs' dugout, "It's magic," after being ruled safe following a seemingly impossible slide in the latest win over the New York Mets in an extremely low-scoring series.

Jacob deGrom couldn't fool the Cubs when he faced them in mid-May, but he's been excellent ever since.

He'll oppose Jake Arrieta on Thursday as Chicago looks to sweep this three-game set at Citi Field.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon hired a magician to perform in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday's opener in an attempt to loosen a club that had scored six runs during a five-game losing streak.

Chicago (41-35) still hasn't been able to produce much offensively - it has scored fewer than three runs in eight straight - but the move seems to have put a hex on the Mets' lineup. The Cubs took the series opener 1-0 before RBI singles from Starlin Castro and Miguel Montero in the 11th gave them a 2-0 victory Wednesday.

The most exciting highlight, though, came when Rizzo stole third after doubling in the ninth, stopping short on his slide and avoiding the tag from Daniel Murphy after Kevin Plawecki's throw beat Rizzo by plenty.

"We're a little bit challenged offensively right now," Maddon said. "A lot of times teams will sink because of that. We have not and I really appreciate that a lot."

The Cubs had no trouble getting to deGrom (8-5, 2.15 ERA) on May 11. Rizzo made it back-to-back homers following Kris Bryant's two-run shot in the first inning of the Cubs' 4-3 victory, as deGrom allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.

The right-hander also finished with that exact line in his only other start against the Cubs, a 7-4 loss June 5, 2014.

In the eight outings since facing Chicago nearly two months ago, deGrom has gone 5-1 with a 1.23 ERA while recording a quality start in each. He's struck out 63 while walking six in 58 2-3 innings with opponents batting .160 in that stretch.

"He's got tremendous stuff," manager Terry Collins said after deGrom gave up four hits in eight innings of Thursday's 2-0 win at Milwaukee. "He's not going through any sophomore slump. He's making the adjustments and making pitches."

So has Arrieta (7-5, 2.94), who followed up a four-hit shutout of Minnesota on June 21 by allowing one run and three hits in seven innings against St. Louis on Friday before the Cubs fell 3-2 in 10.

The right-hander has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of 15 starts.

"I got into a groove and was able to hold them off," Arrieta said. "But they did what they do, they fought back. This was a tough one."

Arrieta didn't have much trouble in either of his last two starts against the Mets (40-39), giving up two hits in seven scoreless innings of a 2-1 road win Aug. 17 and allowing one run and striking out 10 in eight innings of a 6-1 victory May 12.

Those offensive numbers resemble how the Mets have been hitting lately. They've averaged 1.7 runs during a 4-9 stretch and are on the verge of being held scoreless in a three-game series for the first time in club history.

New York hasn't been shut out in three straight since being blanked twice by San Diego and once by Philadelphia from July 25-27, 1992. Collins could only joke about the current slump, referencing Maddon's hiring of the magician.

"I brought in a witch doctor to clean out the clubhouse, get all the bad spirits out of there," he said.

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