LOS ANGELES -- Daniel Murphy's drought without a homer ended in a big way with two long balls and Ike Davis crossed .200 for the first time this season as the Mets routed the Cubs, 17-1, Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field to salvage the series finale.
The Mets snapped a four-game losing streak as they prepared to head to L.A. -- albeit after a several-hour delay at the airport trying to leave the Windy City. The Mets finally touched down in Cali about 3:30 a.m. ET., despite having played a day game at Wrigley Field.
As for his team's erratic spurts -- from series sweeps to getting swept, to sloppy play in two games against the Cubs, to a laugher in the finale, Terry Collins said: “If this was a team that had huge expectations, it could bother you. But because we weren’t expected to be very good, you can let some of the stuff go because you know that you’re dealing with young guys that are learning on the job here.”
Now, Chris Young (1-1, 3.42 ERA) takes on former teammate Chris Capuano (9-2, 2.60) in Thursday's 10:10 p.m. ET series opener at Dodger Stadium. Capuano capitalized on last season's success with the Mets to sign a two-year, $10 million deal in L.A., essentially pricing himself out of the Mets' appetite. He earned $3.925 million with the Mets last season, including incentives.
"That's how guys make what they make -- because of what they did a year ago," Collins said. "And Cappy pitched great for us. Absolutely great. Wonderful guy. He's a tremendous person, one of the hardest workers you've ever been around in your life. I'm really, really happy for him."
Last season, Capuano typically struggled the more he faced a batter in a game, suggesting he might be better in multi-inning relief work. The first time through the order as a starting pitcher, opponents hit .221 in 2011. That jumped to .268 the second time through the lineup, followed by .300 the third time, and .667 beyond that. That still holds somewhat true with the Dodgers -- it's .194, .183 and .318 the first three times through -- but Capuano has enjoyed wild success.
"I think he's another year removed from the surgeries and probably stronger and more confident in what he's doing," Collins said.
Thursday's news reports:
• Murphy downplayed homering in consecutive plate appearances after going 352 at-bats without a long ball. But, he allowed about the two shots beyond the ivy-covered outfield wall: “It was funny, I guess, if you go that long. I don’t know the at-bats, but apparently it was a long time.” It was the first two-homer game of Murphy's major league career.
• Writes columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post:
The baseball season serves as one huge math problem. You expect a certain level of production from every player, and when one player doesn’t deliver, another has to contribute more than you anticipate. That the Mets are still in the playoff conversation is a tribute to R.A. Dickey, Scott Hairston and even David Wright, all of whom have overachieved. That trio could keep going, yet you don’t want to bet on that in the marathon of a 162-game season. You’d rather be prepared for their slowdowns and have guys ready to accelerate. Enter Murphy and Davis, and maybe Josh Thole, too. And perhaps even some of the struggling relievers, just by luck. They can provide the safety net this team could need.
• From the classic lede department, Mike Puma in the Post writes: If the Friendly Confines were any friendlier to them yesterday, the Mets would have each needed a postgame cigarette. Read other game recaps in Newsday, the Star-Ledger, Times, Journal and Daily News.
• Not only did Davis cross .200, he also made amends with umpire Manny Gonzalez, whom Davis touched with his glove arguing a call Tuesday. Davis has yet to hear the amount of his fine and whether he will steer clear of a modest suspension. Read more in the Record.
• Collins lamented losing Vinny Rottino to the Cleveland Indians. Rottino had been removed from the 40-man roster to clear room for left-hander Justin Hampson. He therefore needed to be exposed to waivers before being optioned to Triple-A Buffalo. “It does sting a little bit,” Collins said. “He’s a good little player. I told him when I sent him out that he would be back. As I said the other night, once we know that Ruben [Tejada]’s legs are going to be OK, there’s a spot for guys like Vinny Rottino. So I’m really disappointed we lost him. And I hope he gets a chance to get more playing time and be a major leaguer for the rest of his career. A right-handed hitter that was having a big year in Triple-A -- I’ll tell you, a guy like him that gives you that third catcher and can play other positions, they’re huge.”
• Andre Ethier departed Wednesday's Dodgers game with an oblique injury, meaning the Mets should be spared having to face L.A.'s two most potent sluggers -- Matt Kemp and Ethier. L.A. was shut out in all three games in San Francisco and has not scored in 30 innings. Writes Dylan Hernandez in the Los Angeles Times:
Ethier felt what he described as a "cramp or tight pinch" in his left rib cage when checking his swing to draw a first-inning walk against Tim Lincecum. He was removed from the game after Juan Rivera grounded into an inning-ending double play. "It just didn't get any better," said Ethier, who ranks second in the NL with 55 runs batted in. Ethier and trainer Sue Falsone said they wouldn't know if he would have to be put on the disabled list until he underwent an MRI exam Thursday. But if Ethier is sidelined, he figures to be out awhile: Position players usually take about a month to recover from oblique muscle strains.
• Jon Niese posted a 1.89 ERA in June. A scout watching the Mets at Wrigley Field noted that losing streaks ought not be too long with R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana and Niese in the rotation, no matter what is going on otherwise with the team.
• Valentino Pascucci broke out of a 1-for-22 rut with five RBIs as Buffalo snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 9-4 win against Louisville. Before the game, Pascucci as well as Matt Harvey and closer Fernando Cabrera officially were selected as the Bisons' representatives for the July 11 Triple-A All-Star Game, which Buffalo will host. Read Wednesday's full minor league recap here.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis, in a 3-for-26 rut, sat Wednesday against right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Nieuwenhuis could be out again Thursday with the Mets facing the southpaw Capuano, although fellow-lefty-hitter Murphy figures to start at second base off Wednesday's two-homer performance. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.
TRIVIA: Who was the Mets first baseman who had the errant throw home on May 18, 2009 that allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the 11th at Dodger Stadium?
Wednesday's answer: Capuano had the higher base salary in 2011 -- $1.5 million, to Young's $1.1 million. Both contracts maxed out at $4.5 million, but Young achieved no performance bonuses because he made only four starts before shoulder difficulty sidelined him.