NEW YORK -- The Cubs aren’t in postseason contention, but they showed the Mets that they were a tough opponent in a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
It was a game that saw Cubs right-hander Adrian Sampson outduel Mets ace Jacob deGrom. Sampson pitched six scoreless innings, allowed two hits and struck out three batters. He had the same strategy as teammate Javier Assad the previous night -- mix your pitches and the Mets will be perplexed. Sampson relied on his fastball, changeup and slider and didn’t allow a hit after the third inning.
Sampson didn’t feel any pressure facing deGrom, one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues. Sampson felt deGrom was the one who needed to win this important game, as the Mets are trying to hold off the Braves in a tight National League East race.
“From the outside factor, everyone expects [deGrom] to win,” Sampson said. “I have no pressure on me. … At the end of the day, he has more pressure on him to perform than me. Don’t let the underdog [beat you]. I felt comfortable out there. I was in New York. This is my first time pitching in New York, but there weren’t any problems.”
Sampson got into a little trouble in the first as he began the game by walking Brandon Nimmo, but Nimmo was struck by Jeff McNeil’s batted ball between first and second for the second out of the inning. After walking Pete Alonso to put runners on first and second, Sampson and Alonso started barking at each other.
Sampson didn’t like that Alonso slammed his bat down after taking ball four.
“I was like, ‘Don’t do that. It doesn’t look good. It’s not part of our game.’ It was a non-issue,” Sampson said. “I have a lot of respect for the guy. He is a really great ballplayer. He does a lot of stuff off the field. That I respect a lot, and we share the same agent. I don’t know him that well. Everybody sees what he has done. There are no hard feelings. I didn’t like to see that.”
Sampson managed to get out of the first inning by inducing Daniel Vogelbach to ground out.
deGrom also lasted six innings, striking out 10 batters, but he allowed three runs. He found himself behind starting in the second inning, when Ian Happ hit a mammoth home run into the second deck in right field. The exit velocity was clocked at 111.6 mph, while the ball went a Statcast-projected 407 feet.
Two innings later, Chicago played small ball and scored two runs off deGrom. With runners on first and second and no outs, Michael Hermosillo -- pinch-hitting for Rafael Ortega, who fractured his left ring finger on a bunt attempt earlier in the at-bat -- reached base when he laid down a sacrifice bunt and Mets catcher James McCann made a throwing error.
“Hermosillo’s bunt coming off the bench and having him face Jacob deGrom is a tough sell,” manager David Ross said. “Hermosillo getting that bunt down was big.”
The Mets protested that Hermosillo was out of the baseline and should have been called out for interference. Unfortunately, the play was unchallengeable.
"Hermosillo definitely was not in the lane,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “[Home-plate umpire] Laz [Diaz] said his right foot was on the line. Obviously, it wasn't. Those are the things you find out well afterward. I don't know why you can't challenge that."
Cubs catcher Yan Gomes followed and hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Franmil Reyes. Patrick Wisdom was the next hitter and laid down a safety squeeze bunt, scoring Happ to make it a 3-0 game.
Chicago ended up scoring another run in the seventh inning when David Bote hit a solo homer off Seth Lugo.
“I think we enjoy every win,” Ross said. “We tried to play hard every single day. This group has done a nice job of that. Our record doesn’t indicate [the type of club we are]. We are in a different boat than the Mets are.
“I’ve been proud of how our guys went about their business throughout the season. They don’t back down from a challenge. You saw that tonight against one of the better pitchers in baseball. The guys were up to the challenge. They did a nice job and won the game.”