CHICAGO (AP) _ The Chicago Cubs got another strong performance from Scott Feldman on Saturday, and Matt Garza is set to return to the mound on Tuesday.
One of the worst teams in the NL Central has one of the league’s best rotations.
Feldman pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning and drove in two runs with a big two-out double, helping the Cubs to an 8-2 victory over the New York Mets.
The Cubs have won five of seven and can win three straight series for the first time with a victory on Sunday. Anthony Rizzo had two hits and his first home run since signing a seven-year contract on Monday.
Chicago announced before the game that Garza will come off the disabled list to pitch Tuesday in Pittsburgh, with Carlos Villanueva shuffling to the bullpen. Garza, who had 15 wins with Tampa Bay in 2010, has been out all season with a strained lat muscle.
“If these guys keep throwing the ball the way they have the first six weeks and with Garza coming back, you don’t expect a whole lot right away,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “But once he gets settled in, it’s got a chance to be pretty nice, if not one of the top rotations in the league right now.”
The Cubs (18-24) were going for their first shutout since a victory over Colorado on Aug. 26, but Rick Ankiel broke it up with a two-run homer off Hector Rondon with one out in the ninth.
Feldman (4-3) allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked one in 6 2-3 innings. The right-hander improved to 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA in five games since he lost each of his first three starts in his first year with the Cubs.
“I feel healthy, my arm feels good. Mechanically everything feels a lot better than it did in spring training,” Feldman said. “Just keep working on that stuff and try and keep it that way for the rest of the season here.”
Feldman lifted the Cubs to 26 quality starts, tied with Washington for third in the NL. Chicago’s starters also have held opponents to a .226 average, which actually went up a point Saturday.
Besides Feldman, Travis Wood has opened the season with eight consecutive quality starts and Jeff Samardzija has 64 strikeouts through nine starts.
“It’s awesome, it’s a good feeling. We got Garza coming back and hopefully he just fits right in and gels like the rest of the staff,” Rizzo said. “We know if we go and score some runs, we’re going to be in the game and have a chance to win.”
Mets starter Jeremy Hefner lost his fifth straight decision to start the season. Hefner (0-5) was charged with four runs and five hits in four innings in his shortest start since he pitched four innings against Washington on April 20.
“I wouldn’t say it’s weighing on me,” Hefner said of his winless start. “I want to win, I want the team to win and obviously we didn’t do that today. Got to make some adjustments and be better in the next one.”
New York, which was trying to win three straight games for the second time this season, squandered a couple of chances to get off to a fast start.
The Mets put runners on the corners in the first when Ike Davis flied out for the second out. David Wright then stole second, but David DeJesus hauled in Lucas Duda’s fly ball to deep left-center at the wall to end the inning.
New York had runners on second and third again in the second, but Mike Baxter popped out to shortstop to end the inning.
Chicago then scored four times in the fourth inning. Luis Valbuena had a sacrifice fly and Welington Castillo singled in Alfonso Soriano. After Darwin Barney flied out for the second out, Feldman came up with a two-run double to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
Rizzo tacked on his 10th homer in the fifth and Nate Schierholtz went deep in Chicago’s three-run eighth inning.
“Whenever you get an opportunity to get runs, you gotta seize those opportunities,” Rizzo said. “It was good to get the big inning there, then towards the end with the insurance runs. That’s what we need to do.”
Daniel Murphy went 2 for 4 for New York and is batting .500 (14 for 28) in his last seven games. But Davis continued to struggle, going 0 for 4 to fall to 4 for 39 over his last 11 games.
Davis said he spoke to general manager Sandy Alderson, who told him he wasn’t getting sent down in the near future.
“As long as I keep cool, start having good at-bats and start performing better it won’t happen,” Davis said.
NOTES: Saturday was the 700th game between the Mets and Cubs. Chicago leads the series 352-348. … Rizzo’s home run off Robert Carson was his fourth against left-handed pitching, matching his total from last season. … The Mets are appealing to Major League Baseball to get the second earned run charged Friday to Matt Harvey changed to an unearned run. … Baxter started in right field for the Mets instead of Jordany Valdespin. Mets manager Terry Collins said he made the decision because Baxter was better at facing an off-speed pitcher like Feldman. … The Cubs haven’t lost a series to the Mets at Wrigley Field since 2007. … Sunday’s pitching matchup is the Mets’ Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.13 ERA) against Wood (4-2, 2.03 ERA).
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