NEW YORK (AP) — Rafael Montero avoided the long ball that had plagued him so much. Jenrry Mejia, however, couldn't keep the Cubs in the ballpark.
Starlin Castro homered off Mejia on the first pitch of the ninth inning to lift Chicago over the New York Mets 2-1 Sunday.
With the score tied at 1 following a strong outing from Montero, Castro greeted Mejia (5-6) with his 13th home run, an opposite-field drive that barely cleared the wall near the right-field corner.
"I tried to go outside, but he went outside and he got it," Mejia said.
Curtis Granderson tied it with a two-out RBI single off Pedro Strop (2-4) in the eighth, snapping skids of 0 for 17 and 1 for 29. A diving catch by rookie center fielder Arismendy Alcantara moments earlier prevented more potential damage.
The 23-year-old Montero delivered an encouraging performance, throwing 7 1-3 innings for the longest outing of his rookie season. Still, he joined teammate Jacob deGrom and Chris Schwinden as the only Mets pitchers to go winless through their first six major league starts.
"You saw how effective his secondary stuff is. I mean, we had heard his changeup is outstanding and today he showed it. Great use of it, great location with it," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I thought he pitched an outstanding game. It was really good for him to have a game up here where he knows he can be successful."
Coming into the game, Montero had served up eight homers in 25 innings — the most in club history through five big league outings. He gave up only four home runs in 74 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas this year.
"I made some adjustments in between starts and they helped me put everything together and be aggressive," Montero said through a translator.
It might have been his last chance to impress for a while, at least in New York. Montero is likely to be bumped from the rotation if deGrom returns from the disabled list next weekend.
"No matter what happens here in a few days, certainly he has to be very happy with the way he threw today and his confidence has got to be pretty high," Collins said.
Chicago starter Jake Arrieta allowed two hits in seven smooth innings. Featuring a sharp curve, he struck out nine and left with a 1-0 lead following Luis Valbuena's run-scoring single in the fourth.
"He made pitch after pitch with it, and we have not swung the bats very well this week," Collins said.
Hector Rondon got three quick outs for his 17th save, finishing a four-hitter that ended Chicago's three-game losing streak.
Mets: As expected, 3B David Wright was out of the lineup with a sore left shoulder. Wright left Saturday's game one inning after he was hit by a fastball in the back of the shoulder, aggravating an area that's bothered him all summer. Eric Campbell started at third and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and a double-play grounder. He whiffed to end the game. ... DeGrom (rotator cuff tendinitis) threw about 20 pitches, all fastballs, in a bullpen session and said he had no problems. He'll throw a regular bullpen Tuesday or Wednesday, and so far it appears he's on track to come off the 15-day DL this weekend for a start at Dodger Stadium. ... Collins said he thinks RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow inflammation) will make another rehab start, this time for Class A Brooklyn. Matsuzaka allowed one run and three hits in six innings Saturday for Double-A Binghamton, throwing 69 pitches. "Right now we're not sure where the fit's going to be when he's ready to pitch here," Collins said.
The Mets were held to four hits or fewer for the fourth consecutive game, the third-longest streak in team history. They are 7-10 in August, batting .210 while averaging three runs per game.
Cubs rookie Kyle Hendricks (4-1, 1.73 ERA) starts the four-game series finale Monday afternoon against 41-year-old Bartolo Colon (11-10, 3.85), who is 0-2 with a 4.73 ERA in five career starts against Chicago. Valbuena has two homers in five at-bats against Colon.