When he wore Cubs blue, Marlon Byrd would salute the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field. And for a while, they loved him. Fans arrived at games wearing "Byrd is the word" T-shirts, as they watched him patrol center field for more than two seasons and earn a trip to the 2010 All-Star Game.
But when Byrd was traded to the Red Sox last season after only 13 games, he was hitting .070 and had recorded only two RBIs. It didn't get much better for Byrd in Boston. After just 34 games, he was suspended for 50 games for a positive drug test.
On Friday, Byrd will return to Wrigley Field for the first time since Chicago traded him last April. After a brief stint in the Mexican Pacific League during the offseason, the 35-year-old Byrd is hitting .271 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 96 plate appearances with the Mets this season.
When New York opens a three-game series in Chicago on Friday, Byrd will once again settle into his spot in front of the ivy.
While Byrd's reception should be a spectacle for the fans, the Cubs' focus on the diamond will be figuring out Friday's Mets starter, Matt Harvey. The Mets contemplated when to call up the right-hander last season, but Harvey's performance in 2013 has left little doubt that he belongs in the Majors. Entering Friday's game, Harvey ranks third among starters with a 1.44 ERA and ninth with 62 strikeouts.
When the Mets faced the White Sox on May 7, the 24-year-old starter tossed a one-hitter, striking out 12. Though he didn't get a decision, he kept his record at 4-0 on Mother's Day, when he pitched seven innings and allowed two earned runs, and striking out four Pirates.
Harvey has been the lone bright spot in the rotation, and the reeling Mets will need another solid effort from him on Friday, when they try for their second straight win following a six-game losing streak. The righty, who has never faced the Cubs in his young career, will oppose Edwin Jackson.
Chicago's right-handed starter earned his elusive first win of the season Saturday in an 8-2 victory against the Nationals. While he ended up on the right side of the decision, Jackson's outing was short-lived. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and left the game with the bases loaded before Ian Desmond singled home Roger Bernadina to tax Jackson for his second earned run of the day.
Still, it was a move in the right direction for Jackson, who had gone seven starts in a Cubs uniform before earning his first win. He'll be tasked with keeping the momentum flowing into the Mets series. With their win against the Rockies on Wednesday, the Cubs won back-to-back series for the first time all year.
"We're playing good, we're getting some timely hitting here and there, and making some things happen and catching the ball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Jackson will also hold the challenge of taming Byrd, as the outfielder is just seven hits shy of reaching 1,100 for his career and has at least one hit in seven of his eight games in May.
As Cubs fans used to say, Byrd could be the word by the end of the series.
Cubs: Rizzo on a tear
• In the 20 games since April 26, first baseman Anthony Rizzo is hitting .403 with 10 doubles, three homers, 17 RBIs and eight walks. Entering Friday, Rizzo hasn't struck out in seven straight games. Sveum said Rizzo merely tinkered with his swing earlier in the season and didn't make any major adjustments.
"You just change something up a little bit," Sveum said. "It doesn't have to be drastic, but just to get comfortable again."
Mets: Offense inconsistent
• The Mets' 5-2 win against the Cardinals on Thursday was only the second time in their past 10 games they topped three runs. But when it's rained, it's poured for the Mets. They've scored seven or more runs in a game 10 times this season, tied for second in the National League with the Giants and Braves.
• New York went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the victory against St. Louis after going 11-for-53 (.208) in those situations over its previous nine contests.
• On Wednesday, Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija earned his first win since Opening Day. He was on a career-high five-game losing streak.
• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro's fifth-inning single Wednesday extended his hitting streak to six games. He's hitting .360 (9-for-25) over the stretch.
• Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has hit safely in five straight games, with three multi-hit efforts, including Thursday's four-hit outburst.
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.