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Chicago at New York

Venue: Citi Field

Before he went on the disabled list, Ryan Dempster had one of the longest scoreless streaks for a Chicago Cubs starting pitcher in the last 17 years.

In his return Sunday afternoon, the right-hander will try to extend that run and remain perfect in road matchups against the New York Mets while working within a limited pitch count.

Trade rumors have swirled around Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA) for weeks, and the right-hander remained an attractive commodity with three consecutive scoreless outings covering 22 innings. That streak matches Carlos Zambrano's from 2004.

"The trade rumors have been there. That stuff doesn't bother me. I'll just try to do my job the best I can and let those things take care of themselves," Dempster told the team's website. "I'll focus on going out there and taking it one start at a time, one pitch at a time and just go from there."

Dempster, however, was also dealing with tightness in his right lat during that streak. It eventually became too difficult to manage, and the Cubs (32-52) placed him on the disabled list June 18.

It's a tough (injury) to gauge because it's just a matter of how I felt," he said. "I started to feel better, especially the last week or so."

In his first start back, the 35-year-old right-hander is expected to be limited to 70 to 80 pitches. That could make it difficult to earn a sixth win in as many road starts against the New York Mets during his first such matchup since May 27, 2002.

Dempster is also seeking to become the first Cubs starter since Jim Bullinger in 1995 to record at least 23 straight scoreless innings. Bullinger eventually stretched that run to 24 and Greg Maddux tossed 25 2-3 consecutive shutout innings July 23-Aug. 1, 1990.

During his most recent start against the Mets, Dempster allowed one run and scattered seven hits over seven innings of an 11-1 rout at Wrigley Field on May 24, 2011.

Jonathon Niese (7-3, 3.35) took the loss in that game and faces Dempster again Sunday.

The Mets' left-hander fared much better in his last matchup with the Cubs, a 17-1 win June 27 at Wrigley in which he yielded one win and eight hits over seven innings.

Niese enters this start with a 1.69 ERA over three consecutive wins, and he gave up a solo homer and two singles over eight innings of Tuesday's 11-1 victory over Philadelphia. He also singled in two runs during that game.

"What he's been doing is really going after hitters," manager Terry Collins said. "He's stepped up and has started showing what he can do."

The Mets (46-39) used home runs from Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin for a 3-1 victory in Saturday's middle game of the series. Davis is batting .309 with seven homers and 28 RBIs over the past 24 games after hitting .158 through his first 56.

"I'll take those homers and RBIs," Collins said. "Especially with his defense, because he brings something else to the table that's hard to replace."

Davis is 2 for 3 in his career against Dempster and Darwin Barney is 4 for 6 lifetime versus Niese. Cubs rookie Anthony Rizzo, batting .386 with four homers and nine RBIs in his first 11 games, doubled off the Mets left-hander in last week's loss.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Probable Starters

Ryan Dempster, RHP
2012 stats
81.0 Innings Pitched 96.2
3-3 Wins-Losses 7-3
2.11 Earned Run Average 3.35
22 Walks 32
66 Strikeouts 88
102 Pitches Per Start 100
Career vs. opponent
105.1 Innings Pitched 26.2
10-5 Wins-Losses 2-2
5.30 Earned Run Average 4.73

Jonathon Niese, LHP
weather image  Partly sunny. Hot.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Chi Cubs1st NL Central9956.639-6-4 W 1
NY Mets2nd NL East8373.5328 ½ 6-4 W 1
vs Jonathon Niese
vs Ryan Dempster

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Game Odds
Chi. Cubs 120 N.Y. Mets -130
Chi Cubs
A. AcevedoKnee
D. BeelerElbow
A. BrooksHip
A. CrowElbow
Z. RosscupShoulder
K. SchwarberKnee
C. VillanuevaAnkle
M. ZagunisFoot
NY Mets
L. CarpioShoulder
W. FloresWrist
M. HarveyShoulder
S. MatzShoulder
M. MolinaElbow
J. NieseKnee
J. RuggianoShoulder
N. SyndergaardIllness
N. WalkerBack
Z. WheelerElbow
D. WrightNeck
J. deGromElbow
Series Game Log
Apr 11NYMMIA 10-3Narveson Matz 
Apr 12NYMMIA 2-1Phelps Henderson 
Apr 13NYMNYM 2-1Blevins McGowan 
Jun 3MIANYM 6-2Syndergaard Koehler 
Jun 4MIANYM 6-4Henderson Phelps 
Jun 5MIAMIA 1-0Fernandez Harvey 
Jul 4NYMNYM 8-6Blevins Rodney 
Jul 5NYMMIA 5-2Chen Matz 
Jul 6NYMNYM 4-2deGrom Nicolino 
Jul 22MIANYM 5-3Robles Phelps 
Jul 23MIAMIA 7-2Fernandez deGrom 
Jul 24MIANYM 3-0Matz Urena 
Aug 29NYMNYM 2-1Smoker Wittgren 
Aug 30NYMNYM 7-4Lugo Koehler 
Aug 31NYMNYM 5-2Reed Ramos 
Sep 1NYMMIA 6-4Urena deGrom 
Sep 26MIA 7:10 PM EDT  
Sep 27MIA 7:10 PM EDT  
Sep 28MIA 7:10 PM EDT