Right-hander Ryan Dempster makes his first appearance since a stint on the disabled list today, when the Chicago Cubs close out a three- game series with the New York Mets at Citi Field.
A 35-year-old Canadian, Dempster had won three straight starts to even his record at 3-3 when he was placed on the 15-day DL three days after defeating the Boston Red Sox, 3-0, on June 15.
He was diagnosed with tightness in his right lat muscle.
Against Boston, Dempster tossed seven innings of five-hit ball with three strikeouts, making it three consecutive starts of shutout ball.
In 22 combined innings against Milwaukee, Minnesota and the Red Sox, he's allowed 12 hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts and lowered his season's earned run average from 2.90 to 2.11.
Dempster has met the Mets 25 times in his career as a starter and reliever and is 10-5 against them a save and a 5.30 earned run average in 105 1/3 innings.
On Saturday, New York evened up the series when starter Dillon Gee had a much easier time against the Cubs than he had 12 days earlier, giving up just one run in eight innings to lead the Mets to a 3-1 win.
Gee (6-7) battled to make pitches against the Cubs last week, lasting just five innings in a 5-3 loss. But he breezed through the first four innings Saturday and had little trouble after that, allowing seven hits and striking out four with no walks to snap a two-start losing streak.
It was only his second win in his last eight outings. Ike Davis hit a two-run homer and Jordany Valdespin had a solo shot to back his start. Bobby Parnell escaped a leadoff double by Anthony Rizzo in the ninth for his second save.
The Cubs won the opener, 8-7, on Friday, escaping a three-run Mets rally in the ninth inning, but they had little success in game two.
Starter Jeff Samardzija (6-8) took the loss, allowing three runs in seven innings. The righty, who beat the Braves his last time out to snap a four- start losing streak, gave up seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
The Mets improved to 7-3 in their last 10. They also beat Samardzija on June 27, getting nine runs off him in 4 1/3 innings in a 17-1 win.
"I didn't think I pitched bad early," Samardzija said. "It's just those two homers. Those pitches over the plate will get you."
New York sends lefty Jonathon Niese to the mound aiming for a second defeat of the Cubs in two weeks.
The 25-year-old Ohio native allowed a run on eight hits in seven innings against Samardzija in the aforementioned 17-1 rout, walking a batter and striking out six to get to 2-2 against Chicago in five career starts.
Like Dempster, he's also on a three-start win streak, having beaten the New York Yankees, Cubs and Philadelphia while giving up 19 hits and four runs in 21 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 3.82 to 3.35.
Niese is 4-1 in eight home starts with a 3.33 ERA in 51 1/3 innings.
The Cubs won two of three versus the Mets in a late June series in Chicago and won the season series in 2011, four games to two. The Mets last won a season series in 2010 when then won four of seven.