NEW YORK – Wilmer Flores provided a spark with his bat and glove, leading Jonathon Niese and the New York Mets to a 7-3 victory over the Cubs on Saturday night.
Juan Lagares drove in two runs and reliever Vic Black escaped a major jam unscathed to keep New York in control after Niese exited. Star third baseman David Wright also was removed in the seventh, one inning after he was hit in the upper back by an 88 mph fastball from Dan Straily.
The Mets, outhit 7-4, said Wright was lifted with a sore left shoulder.
The 23-year-old Flores, a touted hitting prospect trying to show he can play an adequate shortstop in the majors, followed Lagares' RBI double with a two-run single in the second.
Flores also made a diving stop and another difficult play in the hole to prevent base hits. He turned a pair of double plays, including one that got Niese (7-8) out of a bases-loaded jam after Chicago's first two batters reached on errors.
Welington Castillo and Justin Ruggiano each hit a solo homer for the last-place Cubs, who have lost three straight.
Niese took a 7-1 lead into the seventh before giving up five straight hits, including Ruggiano's leadoff homer. The last one was a line-drive RBI single by pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney that struck the left-hander on his pitching arm.
That was it for Niese, who departed with the bases loaded and New York ahead 7-3. Black, who has excelled at stranding runners, then retired the top three batters in Chicago's lineup to stop the rally.
Niese has won consecutive starts after dropping four in a row.
Called up from Triple-A Iowa to make a spot start, Straily (0-1) was charged with seven runs — five earned — and four hits over 5 1-3 innings in his Cubs debut. The right-hander, fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting last season, was acquired in the trade that sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland on July 5.
To make room on the roster for Straily, the Cubs optioned outfielder Junior Lake to Iowa. Chicago planned to send Straily back down after the game.
Cubs: 3B Luis Valbuena, in a 1-for-31 slump, was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight night as planned. He struck out as a pinch hitter to end the game. Valbuena has been fighting a cold, manager Rick Renteria said. "Hopefully he'll feel better, and should have him back in the lineup tomorrow," Renteria said.
Mets: Rookie RHP Jacob deGrom (rotator cuff tendinitis) threw on flat ground and said he felt no pain. There is a good chance he'll throw a bullpen Sunday, manager Terry Collins said. ... RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow inflammation) allowed one run and three hits over six innings in a rehab start for Double-A Binghamton.
Mets rookie Rafael Montero (0-3, 6.12 ERA) tries again for his first major league win Sunday when he faces RHP Jake Arrieta (6-4, 2.77) and the Cubs. Montero has served up eight homers in 25 innings, the most in club history through five big league outings. He gave up four home runs in 75 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas this year.