Found June 27, 2012 on The Daily Stache:
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Hello and welcome to another lovely day of Mets baseball. The Amazins (39-36) have once again followed up an encouraging winning streak with a series of defeats to cancel it out. This time, they’ve lost four in a row, and they’ve got just one more chance to win against the Cubs (26-48) before bolting for a weekend tilt in Los Angeles.

Jon Niese takes the hill for New York and is backed by a series of successful starts. In his last four outings, Niese has posted a 28:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio with six earned runs allowed. On the other side, Jeff Samardzija has struggled recently, but he’s the midst of his breakout season as a major leaguer. This year he’s logged 84 strikeouts in 83 innings as a starter.

Today’s game starts at 2:20 ET and will be televised on SNY in New York and on CSN in Chicago. As always, you can also listen to the action on WFAN 660.

Mets lineup
1. Andres Torres, CF
2. Ruben Tejada, SS
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Lucas Duda, RF
5. Ike Davis, 1B
6. Scott Hairston, RF
7. Daniel Murphy, 2B
8. Josh Thole, C
9. Jon Niese, LHP

Murphy’s continued struggles have moved him down in the lineup even against right-handers, but you have to wonder how long the Mets will put up with his bat when Ronny Cedeno is such an improvement on defense. Kirk Nieuwenhuis gets a breather today after 15 strikeouts in his last nine games.

Chicago Cubs lineup
1. Joe Mather, CF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Alfonso Soriano, LF
5. Jeff Baker, RF
6. Geovany Soto, C
7. Darwin Barney, 2B
8. Luis Valbuena, 3B
9. Jeff Samardzija, RHP

Reed Johnson usually gets the start for Chicago against left-handed pitchers, but he’s riding the pine today in favor of Jeff Baker, who only has six starts in the outfield all season. Despite young Anthony Rizzo’s left-handedness, he gets his second straight start this afternoon and why not? The phenom got his season off to a great start with a 2 for 4 last night and the Cubs see him as an everyday player of the future anyway.

Pitching Match-up
NYM — Jon Niese (3.75 ERA, 79 SO, 29 BB)

Despite an increase in walks per nine from last season (3.20), Niese is having a career year. His ERA is down below four and he’s striking out more batters (8.71 per nine) than ever before. He’s been bit by the home run bug but a 20% home run per fly ball rate has nowhere to go but down. His increased use of the cutter this season will help Niese get the groundballs he needs in the second half, and you get the feeling he’s using the fastball as more of a swing-and-miss pitch.

CHC — Jeff Samardzija (4.34 ERA, 84 SO, 30 BB)
In his first season as a major league starter, Samardzija has been a great success. He’s somehow striking out more batters (9.11 per nine) than he did as a reliever last season, and his walks are down from 5.11 in 2011 per nine to a much more acceptable 3.25 this season. Add in the concussion scares in the NFL, and Samardzija’s decision to work summers has become very defensible. Despite all that, he’s gotten beaten up lately with 16 earned runs in his last three starts (just 14 innings). Today will go a long way to telling if the league has caught up with Samardzija or if this is just a blip on the radar.

THE BACKYARD
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