CHICAGO (AP) — Jeff McNeil likes any lineup that includes his name.
No matter the position.
McNeil homered and drove in three runs while making his first career start in right field, helping the New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Friday.
“I think that this guy is playing the type of baseball that you want everybody to play,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.
Michael Conforto also connected as the slumping Mets won for just the fourth time in their last 11 games. Brooks Pounders (1-0) got his first victory since he was acquired in a deal with Cleveland last week, and Edwin Díaz worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 16th save.
McNeil’s two-run shot off Yu Darvish gave New York a 3-2 lead in the third. With two outs and Adeiny Hechavarría on second in the seventh, Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought in left-hander Mike Montgomery to face McNeil, and he pulled an RBI single into right field to break a 4-all tie.
“Kind of swung at a borderline pitch, but got enough barrel on it and found a hole,” McNeil said.
McNeil also played right as part of an unusual defensive lineup by Callaway, who was looking for more offense after New York lost 7-4 on Thursday night in the opener of the four-game series. He got his first major league action in right when he played two innings at the position May 21 against Washington.
McNeil moved to left before the Cubs batted in the eighth and made a key defensive play on Willson Contreras’ bloop hit. McNeil picked up the ball, noticed Anthony Rizzo had taken a wide turn around second and ran at the big first baseman to begin an inning-ending rundown.
“I think that’s just my baseball instincts kind of taking over,” he said.
The Cubs also had Albert Almora Jr. picked off first for the final out of the sixth.
“We made too many mistakes,” Maddon said, “on the bases we made mistakes.”
Addison Russell hit a two-run homer for Chicago, which dropped to 2-2 on a 10-game homestand. Brad Brach (3-2) got the loss after surrendering Hechavarría’s leadoff single in the seventh.
Darvish allowed four runs and four hits in six innings in his 10th consecutive no-decision, extending a franchise record. He became the first traditional starting pitcher with 10 straight no-decisions since Philadelphia’s Randy Lerch in 1977.
“I want to compete,” Darvish said. “Not only frustrating, like weird. I’m not losing. I’m not winning. It’s just weird. I want to win.”
While Darvish was just OK on the mound, he had quite a day at the plate.
He slapped a two-out RBI single through the right side to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the second. He led off the fifth with another single against Jason Vargas, and Russell followed with a drive into the bleachers in left for his fifth homer .
The 32-year-old Darvish entered with one hit this season and six for his career.
Russell’s first homer since May 28 made it 4-3, but the Mets tied it in the sixth. Darvish struck out Pete Alonso and Robinson Canó before Conforto went deep for his 15th of the season .
“I know I give up a lot of runs after we score,” Darvish said. “I really focused on Conforto on that pitch, but just, he hit it.”
If Craig Kimbrel sails through his second appearance with Triple-A Iowa on Friday night, he could pitch for the minor league club again on Saturday. The 31-year-old Kimbrel is ramping up after finalizing a three-year contract with Chicago on June 7 that guarantees the closer $43 million.
MULLING IT OVER
The Cubs are contemplating various options for their rotation after Adbert Alzolay’s successful major league debut Thursday night. Alzolay pitched in relief of Tyler Chatwood, but the right-handers could switch places next time the spot comes up. The team also could go with a six-man rotation to provide some rest for its starters before the All-Star break.
Mets: LHP Justin Wilson (elbow soreness) got an MRI that showed no structural damage, and Callaway said the reliever will throw a bullpen in the next couple days. “He got reaffirmation from the doctors that he’s going to be OK,” Callaway said. “He understands that it’s something that’s going to be there maybe at times and he can push through it.” Wilson was scratched from a rehab appearance at Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. “I really just need to be able to pitch without discomfort,” Wilson said. “We’re just trying to get it to where it’s manageable.”
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (shoulder inflammation) played catch one day after he went through a full shoulder workout. “The initial reports are that he’s feeling good, but we’re not ready to talk through a plan yet or a progression,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.
Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler (5-5, 4.94 ERA) and Cubs left-hander José Quintana (4-6, 3.87 ERA) pitch on Saturday afternoon. Wheeler has dropped his last two starts, allowing four earned runs in six innings in a 12-3 loss at Atlanta on Monday night. Quintana is 0-5 with a 4.30 ERA over his last eight outings.
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