Thursday will be the first time the Cubs have played the Mets since the National League Championship Series last October.
"What does it mean? It just means we're playing the Mets four games in New York," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Last year is last year, man. They beat us, they pitched really well. We had a great season, all of the above. Right now, I know they're struggling a bit, they've had some injuries on their pitching staff, too. I don't even think about connecting those dots from last year."
In Thursday's series opener -- which is both an MLB Network Showcase Game and an MLB Plus game -- all eyes will be on Mets starter Steven Matz.
After Matz pitched 4 1/3 and allowed six earned runs in his last start against Atlanta, it was revealed that Matz has been pitching with a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Surgery could sideline Matz for three months, so he'll continue to try to pitch through it as best he can.
Prior to the Atlanta start, Matz had been one of the best pitchers in a solid Mets rotation, pitching to a 2.74 ERA. Even after the start, Matz still sports a 3.29 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings.
Opposing Matz for the Cubs will be struggling veteran John Lackey. Lackey (7-4, 3.29 ERA) started the season with a 2.63 ERA through his first 12 starts, but he has posted a 6.61 ERA with eight walks in 16 1/3 innings in his last three. In his last start, Lackey pitched a season-low 4 1/3 innings and allowed a season-high seven earned runs.
Things to know about this game • Jason Heyward got the day off for the Cubs against lefty Cody Reed on Wednesday, but he should return to the lineup on Thursday. Heyward is in the midst of a three-game hitting streak, but went 1-for-6 on Tuesday and played all 15 innings.
• The outlook is good for Lackey against the Mets. Of the five Mets batters with 10 or more at-bats against Lackey, only Curtis Granderson has an OPS higher than .700. However, Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera and James Loney have combined for three home runs off the righty.
• Yoenis Cespedes has continued his torrid season, bringing his batting average back up to .289 while hitting .347 with three home runs over his last 19 games.