The anticipation is building for the Major League debut of Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, which comes on Tuesday in Atlanta for MLB.com's No. 7 overall prospect.
Until then, incumbent right-handers Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner are seemingly pitching for their spots in the rotation. Hefner's next audition comes in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs at Citi Field, and the 27-year-old right-hander appears to fit the mold of what Mets manager Terry Collins is looking for in a starter.
"I'm going to take the five guys that we need to make sure we get our best five to go out there," Collins said of the impending decision.
Hefner's 4.11 ERA ranks second among Mets starters, and he's allowed only one earned run in each of his last two starts. He also hasn't had a non-quality start since May 18 -- which came against the Cubs.
While the Mets will be using a six-man rotation for Wheeler's first couple of turns, pitching well enough to remain in the rotation is a priority for the two, Gee said.
"Our job [is] the same no matter what, no matter who's coming or not coming or anything like that. Our job [is] to go out there and try to give the team a chance to win every five days that we're out there," Gee said. "We know that [Wheeler's] coming up and all that, but it doesn't matter. Our job [is] still the same. We've just got to go out there and try to win."
Cubs starting pitchers were in a similar situation earlier this season, when Matt Garza -- who takes the ball in the finale for Chicago -- returned from the disabled list. In that instance, right-hander Carlos Villanueva was sent to the bullpen to make room for Garza, who looks to rebound from one of the worst starts of his career.
Garza surrendered a career-high nine runs over five-plus innings on Tuesday against the Reds. It was his first loss since returning in late May, but the right-hander also has only one victory -- and his lone quality start -- in five outings. Garza's biggest issue has been putting away left-handed batters -- who are hitting .340 against him -- compared to holding righties to a .176 mark.
"It [was] one of those nights," Garza said after getting hit by the Reds. "You just brush it off and get ready for the next five [days]."
Cubs: Replacing DeJesus
The Cubs lost center fielder and leadoff hitter David DeJesus to a right shoulder sprain on Friday night, and the veteran was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Saturday's game.
Manager Dale Sveum said DeJesus is a tough player to replace, but will look to Ryan Sweeney or Luis Valbuena to lead off against right-handers. Darwin Barney led off Saturday against left-hander Jonathon Niese.
"When a guy can play that kind of defense and then do what he does in the leadoff spot, it's hard to find that asset around baseball that can have an .800 OPS against righties," Sveum said.
• Barney, who last season set a Major League single-season record by going 141 games without committing an error at second base, has a 55-game errorless streak dating back to last season, with 52 of those games coming this year. Barney also has a four-game hitting streak.
• Cubs third basemen have hit 12 home runs, matching last season's total at that position.
Mets: Streak snapped
Third baseman David Wright flied out to the warning track in left in his third plate appearance on Saturday, snapping a career-high-tying streak of reaching in nine straight plate appearances. Wright, five hits shy of 1,500 for his career, is batting .455 with two homers in his last eight games, five of which have been multi-hit efforts.
• The Mets haven't scored more than five runs at home in their last 25 games (since April 25). It's the third-longest streak in team history, behind a pair of 26-game stretches (1968, 1979).
• With wins in the series' first two games, the Cubs have won the season series against New York for the third consecutive year.
• Mets outfielder and former Cub Marlon Byrd is 4-for-11 (.364) with two home runs and seven RBIs in his career against Garza. Byrd also is hitting .310 with four homers and seven RBIs this month.
• The Mets are 9-18 in day games, including a 4-12 mark at home.
• Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz has a seven-game hitting streak, during which he's hitting .346 (9-for-26).