The Cubs limp back to Chicago for their last homestand before the All Star break.  Can they look forward to any success against the surprisingly viable Mets?  Or will they continue to be the NL’s piñata?  Find out in our series preview.

Probable Pitchers

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Monday at 8:05pm EDT – Johan Santana vs. Travis Wood

Santana tossed six shutout innings against the Orioles on Tuesday night at Citi Field, allowing only four hits. The win marked his eighth quality start of the year and first since tossing a no-hitter on June 1. Wood finally got a win, his first with the Cubs in his last start. The lefty gave up four hits over six innings and was able to escape a jam. He’s given up three runs or fewer in six of his seven starts and has a 2.92 ERA in his last four.

Tuesday at 8:05pm EDT – Dillon Gee vs. Randy Wells

Gee delivered his seventh straight quality start on Wednesday in a win over the Orioles, allowing two runs on only three hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out nine, tying a career high set earlier this season against San Diego. After a rough outing on Wednesday vs. the White Sox, Wells will another shot in the rotation with Ryan Dempster on the disabled list. Wells allowed three earned runs on five hits and four walks over 3 2/3 innings against the South Siders.

Wednesday at 2:20pm EDT – Jon Niese vs. Jeff Samardzija

Niese picked up his fifth win of the season on Friday night against the Yankees at Citi Field, surrendering only two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. He walked just one batter and has done so in each of his past four starts. Samardzija lost to the D-backs on Friday night at Chase Field, giving up five runs on seven hits in five innings. He hasn’t won since May 29 at Wrigley Field versus the Padres. He is 0-3 with a no-decision and an 8.53 ERA in his last four starts.

How to Pitch to the Big Boys

Each series we’ll take a look at the top three home run hitters in the opposing team’s lineup to establish how to get them out and minimize the damage. The heat maps show each player’s isolated power based on area of the zone. If you’re not familiar with the stat, Isolated Power or ISO is a sabermetric baseball statistic which measures a batter’s raw power. The formula is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average, which removes all the singles that are included in SLG%. The final result measures how many extra bases a player averages per at bat. By limiting extra base hits, you drastically increase your chance to win the game

Our Take

by Jeremiah Johnson

Given my relative proximity to Phoenix, it’s a little surprising (to me at least) that I’ve never gone there to see the Cubs play the Diamondbacks.  But then we have a series like we had this past weekend, and I get all the reminders I need.  It was tough to watch the Cubs throw away three games to Arizona, especially considering how well the roadtrip started against the White Sox.  But none of that matters now, as the Cubs limp back to Chicago to face the Mets and the Astros.

In some ways the Mets are a lot like the Cubs this season–expected to go nowhere and in need of some major rebuilding.  The difference?  They actually have some significant big-league talent, and they’re in a division that’s been up-ended by injuries and underperforming favorites.  Having two of the best pitchers in the NL (Santana and the unavailable to start against the Cubs R.A. Dickey) certainly helps their chances to stay relevant.  Add to that an insanely hot-hitting David Wright and a bunch of role-players who are actually playing their roles, and you’ve got a team might wind up a surprise contender.

Does that mean you should ignore the next few games altogether?  No way.  The Mets have been playing well, but I wouldn’t call them special, and certainly not unbeatable.  Anything can happen, especially at Wrigley.  Samardzija has been significantly better at home than on the road–maybe that will continue Wednesday against a pitcher the Cubs have feasted on in the past.  And good gravy!  Did you get a look at Reed Johnson’s career numbers against Santana?  If he’s not in the lineup tonight, someone needs to perform the concussion tests on Dale.  I can’t give you much optimism for Randy Wells’ start tomorrow, except to say that it might be his last in a Cubs uniform if he doesn’t show up.  But it looks like that will be the Cubs debut of Anthony Rizzo, so at least there will be something to watch for.  We’ll see if any of that comes to fruition in the next few days.  And even if none of it does, rest assured you’ll have a warm, dry place in our comments section to complain about it.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail