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Morning Briefing: Yo, Cabrera returning, but Mets now four back

PHOENIX -- The New York Mets again are a .500 team as they move onward to San Francisco.

After a rubber-game loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets’ three-city trip now continues at China Basin with a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants.

It’s a marquee matchup in the opener as Jacob deGrom (7-5, 2.30 ERA) opposes left-hander Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.11) on Thursday at 10:15 p.m. ET.

Bumgarner ranks second in the National League in ERA, while deGrom ranks fourth.

San Francisco has lost four straight games and is an MLB-worst 9-21 since the All-Star break. The Mets haven’t fared much better. They’re 13-19 since the break and now four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild-card spot.

The Mets are due to have Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Ruggiano rejoin the team on Thursday, although Cespedes will not be eligible to be activated from the disabled list until Friday.

THURSDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Jonathon Niese's first crack at the rotation did not go well. After holding the Diamondbacks hitless for the opening three innings, Rickie Weeks Jr. and Yasmany Tomas consecutively homered against Niese in the fourth. Niese ultimately was charged with four runs in 4 2/3 innings and the Mets went on to lose, 13-5. The final run charged to Niese came when Erik Goeddel served up a three-run homer to Weeks in the fifth. Dropped to sixth in the order, Curtis Granderson went 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning solo homer and two strikeouts. Terry Collins acknowledged after the game that the Mets would consider skipping Niese’s next turn because Monday is a team day off and next week's series in St. Louis is vital. Neil Walker sat out a second straight game with a stiff lower back. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

  • Zack Wheeler was diagnosed with a strained flexor muscle during an examination by Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. Wheeler was instructed to refrain from throwing for two weeks. While the Mets have not ruled out Wheeler returning this season, the odds are now against Wheeler. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

  • Michael Conforto went 4-for-4 with a double and three runs scored, but Round Rock rallied to beat Las Vegas, 10-8. Phillip Evans had his second straight three-hit game as Binghamton routed New Hampshire, 9-1. Kevin Kaczmarski, Cabrera and Cespedes had consecutive doubles in a three-run fifth and St. Lucie beat Fort Myers, 6-3. Nicco Blank and Jimmy Duff combined to surrender four runs in the bottom of the ninth and Asheville stunned Columbia, 7-6. Read the full minor-league recap here.

  • Las Vegas 51s president Don Logan confirmed to the Review-Journal that GM Sandy Alderson expressed satisfaction with the treatment the Mets are receiving from the Pacific Coast League club. Still, Alderson told Logan during the GM’s visit to Vegas this week that the Mets intend to explore whether there is a better geographical fit as a Triple-A affiliate before committing to returning there for 2017 and ’18.

  • James Wagner in the Times looks at T.J. Rivera’s early contribution.

  • From the bloggers … Faith and Fear tips a cap toward middle relief. … Mets Report wants to bench Granderson.

BIRTHDAYS: Pat Misch turns 35. ... Terry Blocker is 57.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: Should the Mets skip Niese’s rotation spot the next time it comes up? Or should they use Niese or a different fifth-starter option on Tuesday at Busch Stadium?