NEW YORK — Dan Straily was well aware his first stint with the Chicago Cubs was going to be brief. After a strong stretch in the middle innings, it ended all too quickly.
The right-hander was pulled after two walks and a hit batter in the sixth, and the Cubs lost 7-3 to the New York Mets on Saturday night.
Called up from Triple-A Iowa to make one spot start, Straily (0-1) retired 12 straight batters before suddenly losing his command. He was charged with seven runs — five earned — and four hits over 5 1-3 innings in his Chicago debut.
"That middle stretch of innings is more the type of guy I am," Straily said. "It was the most amount of runs I've ever left the field giving up in my career, at any level. Not exactly the way you want your first one to go. There's definitely some positives in there from the middle innings, but it was just that the two big innings really hurt me."
Straily, fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting last season, was acquired in the July 5 trade that sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. He was 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA in seven starts for the Athletics this season before getting demoted to the minors May 9.
To make room on the roster for Straily, the Cubs optioned outfielder Junior Lake to Iowa. After the game, Chicago sent Straily back down and recalled outfielder Matt Szczur from its top farm club.
"I am sure we will see him again. Obviously, he gave us a good look and had a snippet of working through with really good tempo," manager Rick Renteria said.
Welington Castillo and Justin Ruggiano homered for the last-place Cubs, who have lost three straight.
Juan Lagares drove in two runs and reliever Vic Black escaped a major jam unscathed to keep New York in control after Jonathon Niese exited.
Star third baseman David Wright also was removed in the seventh, one inning after he was hit in the upper back by an 88 mph fastball from Straily.
The Mets, outhit 7-4, said Wright had a sore left shoulder. New York manager Terry Collins said Wright was pretty sore and probably will get at least one day off.
Wilmer Flores followed Lagares' RBI double with a two-run single in the second. The 23-year-old Flores also made a diving stop at shortstop and another difficult play in the hole to prevent base hits. He turned a pair of double plays, including one that got Niese (7-8) out of a bases-loaded jam after Chicago's first two batters reached on errors.
Niese took a 7-1 lead into the seventh before giving up five straight hits, including Ruggiano's leadoff homer. The last one was a line-drive RBI single by pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney that struck the left-hander on his pitching arm.
Niese departed with the bases loaded and New York ahead 7-3. Black, who has excelled at stranding inherited runners, retired the top three batters in Chicago's lineup to stop the rally.
The runners held on Chris Coghlan's fly to left. Prized rookie Javier Baez slammed down his bat after popping up, and All-Star slugger Anthony Rizzo also popped out.
Chicago went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
"Hopefully, you tone down the anxiety that comes with those moments," Renteria said. "We have some young men in those situations trying to get some runs."
Niese had an RBI groundout in a four-run sixth, when the only Mets hit was a single by Travis d'Arnaud.
"I think it went pretty well until I hit Wright and then it kind of unraveled for me," Straily said. "It's something that just can't happen."
Chicago SS Starlin Castro grounded into that inning-ending double play in the first and went 0 for 4, ending his 14-game hitting streak. The last Cubs player to reach 15 was Aramis Ramirez, who had a 16-game run in August 2011.
SWING AND A MISS
The Cubs struck out 10 times to give them 40 Ks in the past three games and 101 in the last nine, six of them losses.
Cubs: 3B Luis Valbuena, in a 1-for-31 slump, was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight night as planned. He struck out as a pinch hitter to end the game. Valbuena has been fighting a cold. "Hopefully he'll feel better, and should have him back in the lineup tomorrow," Renteria said.
Mets rookie Rafael Montero (0-3, 6.12 ERA) tries again for his first major league win Sunday when he faces RHP Jake Arrieta (6-4, 2.77) and the Cubs. Montero has served up eight homers in 25 innings, the most in club history through five big league outings. He gave up four home runs in 75 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas this year.