NEW YORK METS (20-11, first place/NL East) at CHICAGO CUBS (15-15, second place/NL Central)
CUBS SHORT HOPS
Kris Bryant made his major league debut on April 17, after the Cubs successfully delayed his free-agency eligibility until after the 2021 season. Bryant, a 23-year-old third baseman, was the second overall pick in 2013, out of the University of San Diego. He slugged 43 homers between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season -- the most long balls of any minor leaguer in 2014. Bryant did go homerless in 73 at-bats before his first major league shot, which came Saturday against Milwaukee’s Kyle Lohse. Despite his average slipping to .259 with an 0-for-5 performance Sunday, Bryant has 17 RBI in 22 games as well as a .394 on-base percentage.
The Cubs have a young and exciting infield. First baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro both are 25 years old. Second baseman Addison Russell is 21 and the second-youngest player in the National League. Dilson Herrera is 39 days younger. Russell debuted in the majors four days after Bryant.
Starting four infielders all 25 or younger in April gave the Cubs the distinction of being the first team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers to do so that early in a season. Detroit’s foursome: Carlos Pena, Ramon Santiago, Eric Munson and Omar Infante.
Russell enjoyed a 12-game hitting streak until it was snapped Sunday. He is the first major leaguer to have a hitting streak of that length within his first 16 games in the majors since Minnesota’s Glenn Williams had a hit in all 13 of his games in 2005. Those were the only games of Williams’ major league career.
Rizzo is hitting .370 (27-for-73) with six doubles, a triple, five homers, 13 RBIs and eight walks in his last 19 games.
Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in December after finishing last season with the Oakland Athletics. In his two May starts, the 31-year-old southpaw is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA, although the St. Louis Cardinals also plated three unearned runs against Lester in his last start.
Major League Baseball ruled in late April that the Cubs did not violate tampering rules in luring manager Joe Maddon to the club. Maddon had opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Now in the National League, Maddon is batting his pitcher eighth, with Russell ninth.
The renovated left- and center-field bleachers at Wrigley Field will open for the first time this season for Monday’s series opener against the Mets. The right-field bleachers are not scheduled to open until June 11. The delayed -- and contentious -- renovations at the historic stadium include a giant video board in left field. That video board blocks rooftop seating across the street.
The strikeout-prone Cubs have lost three straight series and are .500 for the first time since opening the season 2-2.
The Cubs have dedicated the season to Ernie Banks, who was known as “Mr. Cub.” He died on Jan. 23 at age 83.