- Associated Press - Monday, July 18, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - One misplaced changeup was quite costly for Steven Matz and the New York Mets.

Matz served up a three-run homer on his 10th pitch to Anthony Rizzo in the third inning, and the Mets lost 5-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Monday night in a rematch of last year’s NL Championship Series.

“You really want to grit your teeth and beat this guy,” Matz said. “Unfortunately, he won.”

Wilmer Flores hit a leadoff homer in the seventh inning, but New York went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base in its fifth loss in seven games.

“Hitting is very, very hard. But we’ve had guys who have done this, who have driven in runs,” manager Terry Collins said. “You’re looking at three or four guys that have all driven in a lot of runs in their careers. We’re hoping it turns, for sure.”

With one out and two on in the third, Rizzo fouled off five straight 2-2 pitches before driving a changeup deep into the bleachers in right-center for his 22nd homer.

“It was 2-2 for a while there. I don’t think he wanted to go 3-2,” Rizzo said. “He was making good pitches and I was just fighting them off. Just try to grind at-bats. That’s what we’re so good at doing.”

The crowd of 41,353 cheered wildly as Rizzo rounded the bases on a picturesque night at Wrigley Field. The All-Star slugger is batting .339 with three homers and 10 RBIs in July.

“He’s the anchor of the whole group. There’s no question about it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The last time the Mets visited the iconic neighborhood ballpark, they finished off a sweep of the Cubs to advance to the World Series. They swept Chicago again in New York from June 30 to July 3, roughing up Jon Lester for one of the wins.

This time around was much different.

Lester (10-4) allowed one run and four hits in his first win in a month, helping the NL Central leaders win for the fourth time in five games since dropping five in a row.

“We were able to get some quick outs with some well-located fastballs and some well-located cutters,” Lester said, “so that was huge for us tonight.”

Hector Rondon replaced Carl Edwards Jr. with two runners on in the ninth and got Travis d’Arnaud to bounce into a game-ending double play for his 16th save.

Matz was charged with four runs and eight hits in five-plus innings. The rookie left-hander dropped to 0-5 in his last nine starts.

“Even though I thought he threw the ball fine, he didn’t have his real Grade-A stuff,” Collins said. “But he battled the best he could.”

Matz nearly had another run on his line, but left fielder Yoenis Cespedes cut down Willson Contreras with a perfect throw to the plate when the rookie tried to score from second on Szczur’s third-inning single.

WELCOME BACK

New York’s Michael Conforto, who was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas after Sunday’s 5-0 win at Philadelphia, pinch-hit in the ninth and reached on an opposite-field single to left.

“I think it’s a testament to what I’ve been working on,” he said. “I’ve been trying to use the whole field like I did last year and earlier in the year. So I think it’s definitely a product of the things I’ve been working on.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: RHP Matt Harvey had season-ending thoracic outlet surgery in St. Louis. … RHP Jim Henderson (biceps) is throwing 91 to 93 mph during his rehab stint at Triple-A Las Vegas, and Collins said the reliever is nearing a return.

Cubs: OFs Dexter Fowler (right hamstring strain) and Jorge Soler (left hamstring strain) were traveling to Iowa and are expected to begin their rehab stints with the Triple-A club on Tuesday. Fowler could return to the Cubs by the end of the week.

UP NEXT

All-Star RHPs Noah Syndergaard of the Mets and Jake Arrieta of the Cubs face off on Tuesday. Syndergaard (9-4, 2.56 ERA) was removed from last start on July 8 due to arm fatigue. “I think the rest has been good for him,” Collins said. Arrieta (12-4, 2.68 ERA) is looking to get back on track after allowing four or more earned runs in three consecutive starts for the first time since 2012.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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