Rookie Rafael Montero already made his first impression for the Mets organization earlier this season with mixed results. But Sunday afternoon, in the third game of a four-game series with the Cubs, he'll be concerned with making an even better last impression.
That's because no matter how his turn on the hill goes, it could likely be his final start in the Majors for the foreseeable future. Jacob deGrom is expected back from the disabled list soon, possibly as early as this spot's next turn in the rotation, which would make Montero an odd man out.
That said, it is an important outing for the rookie right-hander, who has mostly struggled in his five Major League starts this season. He owns a 6.12 ERA and 1.64 WHIP while giving up eight homers in 25 innings.
The most recent of those outings came Tuesday against the Nationals, who scored five runs on seven hits (three homers) in five innings. He struck out four and walked two.
"You see he's got the weapons that he can be successful here with," said manager Terry Collins. "But he's got to locate them better, he's got to learn when to use them, mix them up a little bit. He's got a good arm, got good movement. We've got to continue to work."
Added Collins: "When you're throwing it in the middle of the plate and you're throwing it up like that, you're going to get hit."
Montero's counterpart Sunday is more worried about making a good impression for the remaining month and a half at the top of the rotation. Since Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were traded to Oakland, Jake Arrieta has fit in rather well as the ace of the staff.
In his last game, Arrieta posted his 11th quality start in his last 12 outings -- his only blemish was a nine-run outlier against the Rockies on Aug. 6. In his last start, he held the Brewers to two runs over 7 1/3 innings, although one was a homer by Mark Reynolds.
"We want to come out and win ballgames," said Arrieta after the start. "A byproduct of that is being able to have a chance to spoil someone's season. Our schedule is going to be a tough one from here on out, but we'll be ready for it."
Cubs: Lake sent to Triple-A in effort to regroup
It's been a struggle this season for outfielder Junior Lake, who the Cubs are hoping can get back on track playing every day at Triple-A Iowa.
Lake was optioned to Iowa to make room on the 25-man roster for pitcher Dan Straily, who started Saturday against the Mets. The outfielder was batting .216 with 102 strikeouts in 98 games. He hit .114 in July.
"We'll try to get him back on his feet again," manager Rick Renteria said. "It's tough for me to have him here. The window right now is just right" for him to go to the Minors.
Lake was told he would be back with the big league team when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
Mets: d'Arnaud's safety behind the plate a concern for Mets
When Travis d'Arnaud got whacked on the arm by a backswing of a Cubs batter Friday night, Collins and a team trainer immediately came out of the dugout to check on the catcher, who has already missed time this season due to a concussion from a similar incident.
Part of it is simply the danger of catching, but that doesn't stop it from worrying Collins.
"Right now he's OK. We are concerned about this. This guy has had one concussion, three in his career," Collins said. "We have to make sure this guy stays healthy because his bat is going to play, as we've seen. You can't keep losing this guy for seven days every month. He said he was fine last night, and we'll see how he is.
"It's an issue for sure. We've tried different masks, we've tried all the things. He's just one of those guys, when he gets a foul tip, we're in danger of losing him for a period of time."
• Starlin Castro saw his career-high-tying 14-game hitting streak end Saturday when the shortstop went 0-4 with a strikeout.
• The Mets have won nine of their last 13 one-run games. They are 19-24 in one-run games overall, including 9-10 at home.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.