Heading to the mound to open the team's four-game set against the Mets, Travis Wood will look to build on his last start and continue a stretch of hot pitching for the Cubs.
Prior to Thursday's loss to the Brewers, Cubs pitchers had recorded seven straight quality starts, posting a 2.09 ERA and a 32/11 strikeout to walk ratio over that span. Wood contributed to the streak with six innings against the Rays in which he allowed only four hits and one unearned run. The lefty has been up and down this season but says he feels his command is improving.
"Last couple games, I've felt it's gotten better," Wood said. "I still had three walks, but felt I cut down on that. I was able to attack the zone and keep them off the board."
The Mets will pitch Zack Wheeler, who has been exceptionally consistent over his last eight starts. Dating back to June 30, he has posted a 1.93 ERA and 1.25 WHIP while allowing just more than two earned runs once.
One of his most impressive starts during this season came on June 3 against the Cubs, limiting Chicago to two hits and fanning seven in 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
"I think he's showing people now he is the competitor everybody thought he was when he was coming up," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's bound and determined. When he needs to step it up, he steps it up to get out of innings. ... Those guys will do anything for him now. I told him it's made a huge difference in how he approaches the game, with his mindset now."
Cubs: Unlikely pitchers contributing to Cubs' streak
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Cubs' recent stretch of seven straight quality starts is that the main contributors have been players who weren't on the Opening Day roster. Jake Arrieta started the season on the disabled list, and Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada were in Triple-A.
"I think it speaks volumes in those young men," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "I think everyone has believed they've had the potential to do what they're doing. We're very pleased with the way they've performed. Hopefully it continues. Is it a pleasant surprise? It's just pleasant."
Dan Straily, Arrieta and Hendricks will follow Wood in the rotation in this series against the Mets.
Mets: Questions remain regarding home-plate collisions rule
A day after the Mets' would-be tying run was ruled out at the plate on a play that featured Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos' left leg partially blocking baserunner Matt den Dekker's path to home, Collins didn't have much in terms of answers regarding Rule 7.13.
He agreed that those sorts of calls are similar to flipping a coin.
"I went out [Wednesday] night and said, 'Listen. I want you to look at this. I have absolutely no idea if he's out or safe. None. But you have to look at it,'" Collins said. "There's nothing else to say. If you went out and said, 'Do you think he blocked the plate?' And [the umpires] look at you and they'll [shrug their shoulders]. 'We have to look at it.'
"I know it's a work in progress. I've talked to Joe [Torre, executive vice president of baseball operations] about it. Certainly by next year there will be some definite things that clear up the rule."
• Chicago's Anthony Rizzo leads the Majors with 11 first-pitch home runs this season.
• Starlin Castro enters Friday with a 13-game hitting streak, a season high for the Cubs.
Caitlin Swieca and Jamal Collier are associate reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.