- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs got wiped out again by the New York Mets.

Wilmer Flores went 6 for 6 with two of New York’s five home runs, and the Mets romped to another four-game sweep of the Cubs by battering Lester in a 14-3 blowout Sunday.

After sweeping four games against Chicago in the NL Championship Series last October, the Mets outscored the Cubs 32-11 in winning their first four matchups this year. Chicago took all seven regular-season meetings in 2015.

“It was just a rough weekend. Give the Mets credit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They got us this time. They got us last year. This is a really easy game for me to forget about.”

Following their sensational start to the season, the Cubs limped home Sunday in a legitimate slump. Chicago finished 4-7 on its longest trip of the year, a swing marked by Maddon putting three pitchers in the outfield during one game and a catcher on the mound in another.

Hampered by several significant injuries, the Cubs are 12-15 since June 5 and 2-12 during that stretch against winning teams. Looking to end their long championship drought, they hit the halfway point of the season with a 51-30 record - barely still best in the majors - and a comfortable cushion in the NL Central.

“We’re confident. We’re fine. It’s not a matter of anyone panicking by any means,” Lester said. “I’m sure everyone in this clubhouse will be honest: We weren’t going to be on that pace that we were on for the entire season.”

Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera and pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson also homered as New York set season highs for runs and hits (22) in support of Noah Syndergaard (9-3).

Flores hit a leadoff homer and an RBI single in the second, part of a seven-run outburst that spelled the end of a miserable day for Lester (9-4), the NL pitcher of the month in June.

The left-hander gave up eight runs and nine hits in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest of his 301 career starts over 11 major league seasons. He was 5-0 in his previous seven outings and entered with a 2.03 ERA that ranked second in the majors to injured Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (1.78).

“I wasn’t throwing the ball down the middle by any means. They’re just swinging the bats really well right now,” Lester said. “I feel like they didn’t miss a mistake the whole series.”

Before Friday night, the Mets had never hit five home runs in a game at Citi Field, which opened in 2009. They did it twice in 45 hours against a Cubs pitching staff that began the day with a 2.97 ERA - lowest in the majors by a considerable margin.

“We’ve got all the tools that we need,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “I think it’ll be fine. Obviously, it’s not going to be as easy as it was maybe early on, but I don’t think it’s going to be as bad, either.”

Maddon began pulling starters in the sixth as his team lost for the 10th time in 14 games.

By the seventh, Montero was on the mound to save the bullpen, throwing pitches that mostly ranged from 79-84 mph. He yielded one run and four hits in 1 1/3 innings.

“They were all two-seam fastballs, sinkers. I tried to throw one breaking ball, and I hit the guy. So, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t want to hit anybody. I don’t want to hurt anybody.’ So I tried to stay on the plate and make them hit the ball on the ground,” Montero said. “I don’t remember the last time I pitched. Something for the bucket list.”

Flores drove in four runs, scored three and raised his batting average from .224 to .255. He entered in an 0-for-14 slump before joining Edgardo Alfonzo (1999) as the only Mets players with six hits in a game.

New York’s previous four-game sweep of the Cubs during the regular season came in June 1985 at Shea Stadium. The teams play three more times this season, at Wrigley Field from July 18-20.

“It was terrible. It was bad. They outplayed us,” Montero said. “We were sloppy.”

PITCH AND CATCH

With the game well in hand, Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom was sent up as a pinch hitter in the eighth and flied out against Montero. “I thought it was equal at that point,” Maddon said. “I have to believe that is somewhat of a first.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

OF Chris Coghlan went on the 15-day DL with a right ribcage strain and expects to have an MRI on Tuesday in Chicago. INF Jeimer Candelario was recalled from Triple-A Iowa and played third base in his major league debut. He struck out three times but singled in the seventh off Syndergaard for his first career hit.

UP NEXT

RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-6, 2.76 ERA) pitches Monday afternoon at Wrigley Field against Cincinnati LHP Cody Reed (0-2, 9.00) in the opener of a three-game series that features all day games. “Sub-optimal, in a sense,” Maddon said.

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