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Series preview: Mets at Cubs

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Matz vs. Lester headlines Monday Night Baseball (2:04)

The Baseball Tonight team previews Monday's matchup between the Mets and Cubs at Wrigley field with Steven Matz taking the mound for New York against Chicago's Jon Lester. They also discuss Michael Conforto's return to the Mets' lineup. (2:04)

NEW YORK METS (49-42, second place/NL East) at CHICAGO CUBS (55-36, first place/NL Central)

Monday: LHP Steven Matz (7-5, 3.38) vs. LHP Jon Lester (9-4, 3.01), 7:05 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Noah Syndergaard (9-4, 2.56) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.68), 7:05 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-4, 3.11) vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (8-6, 2.41), 2:20 p.m. ET

CUBS SHORT HOPS

  • Arrieta limped into the All-Star break entirely mortal. He allowed 15 runs on 21 hits and eight walks in 16 1/3 innings over his final three first-half starts.

  • David Ross returned from the seven-day concussion DL on Friday. He had taken a jolt on a foul ball while catching before the All-Star break. Ross nonetheless did not appear during the second-half-opening series against the Texas Rangers.

  • Kris Bryant became the sixth player in Cubs history to lead the National League in homers at the All-Star break, joining Hank Sauer (1952), Ernie Banks (1960), Ryne Sandberg (1990), Sammy Sosa (1996 and 1999) and Derrek Lee (2005), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

  • Dexter Fowler (hamstring) spent the weekend with the Cubs, but he is due to resume a rehab assignment this week and should not be active for the series against the Mets. Jason Heyward and Albert Almora Jr. have handled center field minus Fowler.

  • The Cubs have lost eight straight games to the Mets -- a four-game sweep in the National League Championship Series, then another four-game sweep at Citi Field two weeks ago.

METS SHORT HOPS

  • Michael Conforto rejoins the Mets on Monday after a three-week demotion to Las Vegas, during which he hit .344 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games. Conforto had been in an 8-for-75 rut before the demotion. Brandon Nimmo was demoted to the Triple-A club after Sunday’s game to clear the roster spot.

  • Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday in his first game since suffering a strained right quadriceps on July 8. Cespedes indicated after the series finale in Philadelphia that he would like to play left field exclusively for the remainder of the season, which complicates the Mets’ outfield alignment. If manager Terry Collins grants Cespedes’ wish, either Curtis Granderson or Conforto would have to handle center field if all three are in the lineup. Juan Lagares had been seeing regular action in center field with Cespedes sidelined. But if Lagares continues to start against right-handed pitching, then either Conforto or Granderson would be on the bench.

  • All eyes will be on Syndergaard’s fastball on Tuesday. Syndergaard was pulled from his last first-half start after his fastball velocity dipped to 91 mph in his final inning. The Mets announced Syndergaard had “arm fatigue” and did not perform an MRI. Syndergaard, who attended but did not pitch in the All-Star Game, was placed at the back end of the Mets’ rotation for the second half to maximize his rest. He has not pitched since July 8.

  • Jeurys Familia has converted 48 straight regular-season saves. That’s the fifth-longest streak in MLB history. If he successfully converts his next save, he will match No. 4 John Axford, who had 49 straight save conversions with the Milwaukee Brewers until the Cubs ended the streak on May 11, 2012.

  • Asdrubal Cabrera is 0-for-his-last-27 with runners in scoring position.

  • Neil Walker has 16 homers this season, matching his total all of last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

  • Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next Sunday. He will be the second player representing the Mets in the Hall of Fame, joining Tom Seaver. The Mets will retire Piazza’s No. 31 on July 30.