Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/8/12

NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs peppered Jon Niese with one hit after another Sunday, sending the New York Mets into the All-Star break shaking their heads not at their surprisingly first half but about another defeat to a dismal team.

The Cubs entered Sunday tied for the worst record in the major leagues, but their 7-0 win at Citi Field marked their fourth win in six games against the Mets.

Chicago has won eight of its last 12 to close the unofficial first half, with young first baseman Anthony Rizzo making an impact since arriving from the minors.

Rizzo didn't make much of a dent Sunday, but the rest of the Cubs did. They smacked Niese for four runs on five hits in the first inning. Just when Niese appeared to settle down, the Cubs added three in the seventh, on All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro's two-out, three-run homer to left.

It was all more than enough for Ryan Dempster (4-3), who returned from the disabled list by throwing five shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.99.

Dempster allowed four hits while striking out four without giving up a walk.

With Dempster making his first start since June 15, the Cubs turned it over to the bullpen and four relievers shut out the Mets the rest of the way. That included a scoreless inning for Paul Maholm, who made his first relief appearance after 201 career starts.

The Mets, who didn't produce more than one base runner in an inning against Dempster, threatened Maholm with singles by Daniel Murphy and David Wright to start the sixth. But Maholm got Ike Davis to pop up to short and induced a double play from Lucas Duda to end the inning and preserve the Cubs' 4-0 lead.

Mets manager Terry Collins had again played Jordany Valdespin in the outfield, this time for his first career start in center, in place of slumping center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Collins hoped Valdespin, who had homered in his last two games, could provide another jolt. He singled, but the Mets overall did not provide much offense.

Chicago pounded Niese (7-4), opening the game with back-to-back singles by Reed Johnson and Castro. One out later, Alfonso Soriano singled in a run for a 1-0 lead. Jeff Baker then doubled in another run before Geovany Soto singled in two more for a 4-0.

Niese allowed one more hit in the next five innings, but the Cubs sent him off with three more hits in the seventh.

NOTES: Mets center fielder Andres Torres (back) missed his fourth consecutive game, but should be ready to return after the All-Star break, manager Terry Collins said. ... Cubs right-hander Chris Volstad was demoted to Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa to make room for Ryan Dempster. Volstad (0-7, 7.94 ERA) has not won a game since last July 10.

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