Mets-Cubs preview

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have their aces rested and ready as the New York Mets come to town for a series that starts Monday.

Left-hander Jon Lester and righty Jake Arrieta offer what Chicago hopes is a one-two punch in consecutive night games against the reigning National League champions.

Lester will have had eight days between starts while Arrieta will have had 10 days away his last appearance.

"I'm eager to see how these guys react to the extra time off," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon on Sunday.

The Cubs have something to prove after being swept by the Mets in four games in New York between June 30 and July 3. Chicago was also eliminated by New York in four games in the 2015 National League Championship Series.

Chicago has lost eight straight to New York after taking seven straight regular-season games during 2015.

Lester (9-4, 3.01 ERA) faces left-hander Steve Matz (7-5, 3.38 ERA) on Monday and looks to right himself after allowing 12 earned runs in his last two starts. He had given up just 24 runs total in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up a season-high eight runs in a career-low 1 1/2 innings in his outing on July 3 at Citi Field.

Chicago appears to be shaking off a pre-All Star game slump in which it lost 15 of 20 games.

The Cubs (55-36) then won three straight, including a 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh, just before the break. The Rangers broke that winning streak with Sunday's 4-1 victory but the Cubs still took two of three from the American League West leaders.

The Mets (49-42) had also been struggling to gain traction prior to the break, dropping four of their last six and losing ground to first-place Washington in the National League East.

But on Sunday, New York claimed a 5-0 victory over the Phillies thanks to Jacob deGrom's dominant, complete-game, one-hit shutout. The Mets took two of three in the post-All Star Game series.

Matz, who started the season at 7-1, gets first crack at Chicago.

He took the loss in the Mets' 3-2 loss to Washington on July 10 after working seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits. He is 4-2 on the road this season in seven road starts.

The marquee matchup of the series may come Tuesday when Arrieta (12-4, 2.68 ERA) goes against Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard (9-4, 2.56 ERA). Both seek a return to earlier form after struggling prior to the break.

"Not picking up a ball for four days was exactly what I needed," said Arrieta, who had lost three of his last four decisions -- including one to the Mets -- since June 22. "Sometimes you need that mental downtime, spending time with (son) Cooper and my family was tremendous. I picked up the ball for the first time in four or five days and threw the best pen I've thrown all year."

Syndergaard, who will make his 19th appearance, has thrown 105 2/3 innings and also welcomed the All-Star break.

"I was really fatigued the last part of the first half of the season," he told reporters. "I just needed a little bit of a break."

Syndergaard, who departed a July 8 game against the Nationals with what was described as arm fatigue, threw a 20-pitch bullpen session on Saturday.

Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-4, 3.11 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound in Wednesday's series finale, facing righty Kyle Hendricks (8-6, 2.41 ERA).

Also Sunday, the Mets announced they have recalled outfielder Michael Conforto from Triple-A Las Vegas where he was hitting .344 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 61 at-bats. New York optioned Brandon Nimmo to Triple-A in a corresponding move.