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junkmansports
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Sunday Night Baseball: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets

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On 09/11/2011 08:20 AM in MLB
Chicago Cubs at New York Mets

The Chicago Cubs visit New York to take on the Mets for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

MORE MONEY MORE PROBLEMS

The Cubs and Mets rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in MLB in total payroll.

The Cubs’ $125 million has bought them a 62-82 record entering Saturday and fifth place in the NL Central. The Mets’ $118 million hasn’t gotten them too much more - a 71-73 record and third place in the NL East.

The high payrolls and recent struggles of the Cubs cost former Chicago GM Jim Hendry and former New York Mets' GM Omar Minaya their jobs in the past 11 months.

SAME CHURCH DIFFERENT PEWS

The Cubs and Mets are both eliminated from playoff contention and over 20 games out of first place. But the teams aren’t exactly in the same boat.

The Cubs appear ready to pack it in and set their October tee times. They have lost 12 of their last 19. The Mets have gone 11-6 in their last 17 games, including a walk-off 5-4 win over the Cubs Friday night. Justin Turner won the game with a two-out double in the ninth inning.

“Regardless of where you’re at (in the standings), those are always exciting,” Mets' outfielder Jason Bay said after the game.

The Cubs, though, bounced back on Saturday and scored two in the ninth for a come-from-behind 5-4 victory.

ACE IN THE HOLE

Throughout the Cubs’ struggles in August and early September, former Tampa Bay Ray Matt Garza continues to be a bright spot in the rotation.

The Cubs have won four of his last five starts and Garza’s 8-10 record is no indication of how effective he’s been on the mound. He has a 3.52 ERA this season and 171 strikeouts and boast a 2.77 ERA in his last four outings.

“We’re gonna need that guy,” Cubs' manager Mike Quade said of Garza. “We want that guy to give us eight (innings) once in a while, maybe nine. I think he’s a horse, I really do. I think he’s capable of better, I think we’ll see better.”

OVER THE HILL ON THE HILL

The Mets will counter with 40-year-old Miguel Batista. He has been on seven different teams in his career, including two separate stints with the Washington Nationals 10 years apart.

He was let go by St. Louis in April after struggling early on. The Mets signed him to a minor-league deal in July and he made his first start with club September 1. Batista faced the Marlins in his first two starts as a Met, going six innings in both games and allowing a combined three earned runs. New York won both starts.

IN NEED OF RELIEF

Sunday night’s result could hinge largely on the bullpens. Cubs' closer Carlos Marmol has blown a league-worst nine saves this season. Last weekend, he allowed former teammate Derek Lee to blast a grand slam off him to turn a 5-3 Cubs ninth-inning lead into a 7-5 Pirates win.

“You don’t want a closer who’s afraid to grab the ball, and he’s not,” Garza said of Marmol. “He wants the ball every chance he gets. It’s a rough year, what are you going to do?”

Thanks to strong setup man Sean Marshall, the Cubs bullpen actually ranks 13th in baseball with a 3.60 collective ERA. The Mets' bullpen is much worse overall with a 4.16 ERA - 27th in the majors.

NOTEWORTHY NUMBERS

- Cubs are 3-7 in last nine road games.
- Cubs are 7-22 in last 29 Sunday games.
- Mets are 1-7 in their last eight Sunday games.
- Mets are 5-2 in the last six meetings versus the Cubs at Citi Field.
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