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Mets break out for six runs in the fifth

The last time Jeff Samardzija faced the Mets, it wasn't exactly an outing he'd like to remember.

The 27-year-old righty got rocked for nine earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in 17-1 loss to the Mets on June 27, capping off a month in which he went 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA in five games.

But when he takes the mound Saturday against the Mets, the Cubs are hoping he will continue the form he showed in his lone July start, when his command of his splitter led to a career-high 11 strikeouts and one earned run in seven innings in a win over the Braves on July 2.

"That has a lot to do with the splitter," Samardzija said afterward. "The splitter was there, and I kept them off-balance and I was throwing my fastball for strikes, too."

His splitter will most likely be on display again Saturday as the hard-throwing pitcher in his first full year as a starter looks to keep batters off-balance on top of commanding his fastball.

"You expect him to build on the experiences he had to go through in the last month," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after Samardzija's last start. "Sometimes it's just like hitters -- a hitter is hitting .300 and he wants to hit .330 and he comes up with new things, and it gets away from him instead of understanding what you are and what made you successful and sticking to that and not getting too complicated."

The Mets will trot out Dillon Gee after their three-run ninth-inning rally fell short in the Cubs' 8-7 win Friday to open the series. They're hoping the 26-year-old starter will bring momentum back toward the Mets' side as the team stresses heading into the All-Star break on a high note.

"We thought it's important to come out of these two series positive and move into the break on a positive note," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've got to go in with a positive atmosphere, let these guys have some rest and come out of it ready to go."

Cubs: Dempster to be activated, start Sunday
• Ryan Dempster will come off the disabled list on Sunday and will start in the Cubs' last game before the All-Star break.

Dempster has been sidelined since June 16 with a sore right lat, and Sveum said Friday that Dempster will be limited to 80 pitches.

"It's a tough [injury] to gauge because it's just a matter of how I felt," Dempster said Friday. "I started to feel better, especially the last week or so. It responded well today from throwing the bullpen today."

• Starlin Castro will return to the Cubs' lineup Saturday after he was out of the starting lineup Friday. Before that, Castro had started all 82 of the Cubs' games, the only National League player to be in the starting lineup for all of the team's games. Castro entered Friday's game in a double-switch in the seventh inning and went 1-for-2.

"I wanted to give him a day off before the [All-Star] break, one way or another," Sveum said before Friday's game. "I just want him to kick back one day and just observe before the break, because he's not going to get much of a break. I want him to kick back and talk to him about scenarios on the bench."

Mets: Bats coming alive with two outs
The Mets are hitting .276 with two outs, the third-highest average in the Majors. They are hitting .287 with two outs and runners in scoring position, the second-highest mark in the Majors.

"We just talked about playing nine innings, playing 27 outs," Collins said. "It wasn't anything we stressed with two outs, we just pretty much stressed that you've got to play the game hard from start to finish."

The Mets' 184 two-out runs are also the most in the Majors.

"Early in the year, guys realized that with two outs the inning isn't over and that we can still score," Collins said. "That's where it started, they did it themselves."

Worth noting
• In 57 career at-bats, Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson is batting .365 with 12 RBIs against the Mets, including a 4-for-6 game on Friday.

• The Cubs took two of three when the two teams met June 25-27.

• The 17 runs the Mets scored the last time Samardzija started against them on June 27 was the most the Mets have scored this season. Comments