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Lutz homers, Mejia struggles in Las Vegas

Mets right-hander bitten by walks during 2 1/3 innings against Cubs

LAS VEGAS -- Chris Rusin's rotation bid gained steam on Sunday in the desert, when the Cubs left-hander pitched four shutout innings in a 6-3 win over the Mets.

One of the only pitchers all weekend to tame Cashman Field's hitter-friendly conditions, Rusin held the Mets to a single hit -- a two-out Zach Lutz single in the second -- and struck out two. The performance lowered his spring ERA from 8.22 to 5.40 as he continues to battle James McDonald, Tsuyoshi Wada and Jake Arrieta for a spot in the rotation.

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Mets starter Jenrry Mejia, whose chances of making the team increased with the news of Jon Niese's elbow injury in a split-squad game back in Florida, was not nearly as successful. Walking two of the first four batters he faced, Mejia allowed both runners to score on a single by George Kottaras -- though one of the runs was unearned due to second baseman Anthony Seratelli's throwing error. An additional run against Mejia came two innings later on Donnie Murphy's homer.

The damage against Mejia might have been worse if not for the expert outfield play of Juan Lagares. Battling Eric Young Jr. for a starting job, Lagares tracked down Chris Coghlan's line drive to end the first inning, then ended the second by throwing out Darwin Barney at the plate. Lagares, however, finished 0-for-4 to drop his spring batting average to .281.

The Cubs also tagged Rafael Montero for two runs in 2 2/3 innings, with the damage coming on Dan Vogelbach's homer and Ryan Sweeney's RBI single.

Andrew Brown brought the Mets back into the game with a booming two-run homer off Armando Rivero in the sixth, one inning after Lutz hit a solo shot to put them on the board. But despite some stout bullpen work from Miguel Socolovich and Carlos Torres, the Mets could not complete the comeback, splitting their two-game exhibition series against the Cubs.

Up next: With David Wright, Curtis Granderson and most of the team's Vegas traveling party receiving the day off, John Lannan will start a 1:05 p.m. game against the Marlins at Jupiter, Fla. Lannan's chances of making the rotation increased over the weekend with the possibility that Niese could miss time.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.

New York Mets, Zach Lutz, Jenrry Mejia