James McCann leads Mets into Chicago to face Cubs

MLB Baseball

New York Mets catcher James McCann played on the South Side of Chicago for the past two seasons, but his appearance on the city’s North Side this week for a series with the Chicago Cubs warrants buzz nonetheless.

That’s because McCann is off to a solid start with the Mets after signing a four-year, $40.6 million contract this offseason, especially on defense.

Sunday, his seamless throw to shortstop Francisco Lindor on Trevor Story’s attempted steal of second marked the final out as New York preserved a 2-1 road victory against the Colorado Rockies.

“That was on the money,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “He’s showing things that he can do back there. Not only receiving and calling the game, but also controlling the running game by throwing to the bases like that.”

McCann has nabbed three of nine would-be base stealers this season, a 33 percent success rate.

Rojas points to that statistic as one reason the Mets are 4-0 in one-run games. The fundamental things apply, and the Mets have shown their aptitude for them.

“To come through with big plays shows the guys are staying prepared,” he said. “These types of games, we know how early it is in April, but guys are playing the one-run games, having situations like that, to come through with big plays — it’s a good sign the guys are staying prepared.”

Chicago will hope to fare better in this series than its previous one against the Mets’ National League East rival. The Atlanta Braves took two of three over the weekend, including a 13-4 win in Sunday’s rubber game that saw the Braves smack five home runs, including four in the first inning.

The Cubs have lost eight of 11 while scoring four runs or more only three times during that span.

Manager David Ross is leaning on the Cubs’ experience to help stay the course as Chicago aims to regroup.

“We’ve got a lot of veterans; we don’t have many young guys,” Ross said. “Guys that understand the 162-(game) dynamic, and they just continue to try to keep that steady heartbeat. Getting off to a good start is important, and these guys didn’t. But I hadn’t seen any wavering in their mental state.”

Despite the offense’s collective slump, Ross said he still is relying on stability in the lineup and doubts he will make any significant shuffling.

“When things aren’t going well, you want to tinker with things,” Ross said. “There’s also an understanding from my seat that the success that we need to have is going to come from the group of guys that are that core group of guys.”

Among them? Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, who each had two hits and combined for three RBIs Sunday.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker (0-0, 2.61 ERA) will aim for his first victory as a Met. He has scattered three runs and seven hits in 10 1/3 innings over two starts this season while striking out 12. An American Leaguer for much of his career, Walker is 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in one start against the Cubs, surrendering two home runs in five innings.

Jake Arrieta (2-1, 3.18 ERA) gets the call for the Cubs. Arrieta has struck out 14 in 17 innings over three starts this season. He is 6-5 with a 3.09 ERA in 16 career starts against the Mets.

–Field Level Media

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