Cubs @ Mets Thursday Game Preview

The roller coaster ride that is the New York Mets' season takes another twist tonight as the Mets try and complete a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. Game time is 7:10 p.m., with coverage on Fox Sports New York. Wednesday's 2-1 Mets' victory was the team's fifth straight at home after its NL-record 15-game home losing streak, and moved New York's record to 72-79.

The Cubs have now lost eight of their last 12 games to fall to 64-88, and have dropped four of the five meetings between the teams in 2002, with every game being decided by two or fewer runs.

Jason Middlebrook makes his second Met start tonight opposite Matt Clement, the Cubs' leading winner.

Middlebrook was solid in his first outing as a Met, giving up two runs and three hits in five innings last Thursday in Montreal, a game the Mets won 8-2. After throwing one-hit ball for five innings, Middlebrook walked opposing pitcher Tomo Ohka and gave up consecutive hits to Endy Chavez and Jose Vidro before being replaced by Steve Reed.

Clement, acquired before the season from Florida along with closer Antonio Alfonseca, has had his best year in the majors, leading the team with 12 victories. He's currently one win shy of his highest total, 13 with San Diego in 2000. And his ERA of 3.42 is more than a full run lower than in any other season to date.

In his last five starts, Clement is 3-1 and has given up eight runs in 34 innings, a 2.12 ERA.

Clement has pitched well against the Mets in his career, sporting a 2-2 record in six starts with a 3.03 ERA. He hasn't allowed a home run to Mets hitters in 35 2/3 innings, and only red-hot Jeromy Burnitz has any real success against Clement, going 5-for-8 with three RBIs.

Middlebrook has never faced the Cubs or any of their hitters.

-- The honors keep coming for Mets' phenom Jose Reyes. The shortstop was named as USA Today's Minor League Player of the Year Thursday, joining players like Carlos Delgado, Cliff Floyd, Andruw Jones (twice) and Florida rookie pitcher Josh Beckett, last year's winner.

-- Wednesday's win gives the Mets a 318-317 edge over the Cubs all-time, the only team around since the Mets began in 1962 that New York has a winning record against.

-- Reliever David Weathers and manager Bobby Valentine will have their appeals heard Friday. Weathers was suspended for three games and Valentine for one after Weathers hits Colorado's Juan Uribe with a pitch during a game in Colorado on Aug. 25.



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