NEW YORK -- All the talk about the Chicago Cubs lately centers around the cavalcade of blue-chip prospects either arriving at Wrigley Field or knocking on the door.
On Sunday, though, shortstop Starlin Castro -- a top prospect from a previous regime and the most experienced player on the field -- provided plenty of reminders that he's still a pretty good player for the Cubs to hang on to and build around.
Castro saved a run in the third inning by beginning a nifty double play and hit a tie-breaking homer on the first pitch of the ninth inning to lift the Cubs to a 2-1 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field.
"I don't forget that he's here," Cubs manager Rich Renteria said with a smile. "I know that the attention is on the other young men that are here -- rightfully so, because we're looking at them for the future and what they bring to the table. But obviously we have some men here who have been grinding it out throughout the whole season."
"(Castro's) been here for a few years. And he's having a very good season. We're glad to see that."
At 24, Castro was the third-youngest member of the Cubs' lineup Sunday. But he's already played in 729 games as a big leaguer, 56 more than right fielder Ryan Sweeney, who debuted in the majors Sept. 1, 2006 -- more than a month before Castro signed his first professional contract.
While the Cubs signed Castro to a seven-year extension on Aug. 28, 2012 -- less than 10 months into the regime of Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer -- the club's continual stockpiling of shortstops has led to conjecture about the future of Castro, who is hitting .286 with 13 homers and 64 RBIs.
Two of those shortstops have been shifted to different positions at the majors, and second baseman Javier Baez and center fielder Arismendy Alcantara both made impressive defensive plays Sunday.
In the eighth, Alcantara made a diving catch to momentarily keep the Mets from tying the game. Five innings earlier, Baez bare-handed the relay from Castro -- who ranged to his left to grab a grounder by Mets center fielder Juan Lagares -- and completed the double play that prevented a run from scoring.
"He's pretty good out there, he's going to be awesome," Castro said. "He's played like he's always (been) playing there."
Castro has seen enough of Bryant and Alcantara -- and knows enough about power-hitting Triple-A third baseman Kris Bryant as well as Double-A shortstop Addison Russell, whom the Cubs acquired from Oakland on July 5 -- to know he wants to be a part of the franchise as it tries to break a century-long championship drought.
"Here together, we've got great talent," Castro said. "I think if you (put) all of us together, I think as a team it's going to be much better."
Castro's homer off Mets right-hander Jenrry Mejia (5-6) helped snap a three-game losing streak for the Cubs (53-70). Castro and Sweeney each had two hits while third baseman Luis Valbuena had an RBI single in the fourth.
Right-hander Pedro Strop (2-4) earned the win despite giving up an unearned, game-tying run in the eighth. Right-hander Hector Rendon earned his 17th save with a perfect ninth.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta was in position to earn the win after tossing seven impressive shutout innings of two-hit ball. Utilizing a knee-bending curveball, Arrieta walked two and struck out nine -- including the side in the second and fourth -- as he lowered his ERA to 2.61, which would be sixth in the National League if he had enough innings to qualify. He is 5 2/3 innings shy.
"I just had a good feel for (the curveball) -- was able to throw it in multiple counts for a strike below the zone," Arrieta said. "It was there for me when I needed it today."
Right fielder Curtis Granderson had an RBI single in the eighth for the Mets (59-66), who have just 15 hits in their last four games. Shortstop Ruben Tejada had two hits Sunday.
"You have to battle them," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It sounds easier. It is harder to do when you are in that batter's box."
Mets right-hander Rafael Montero allowed just one run on five hits and two walks while striking out six over a career-high 7 1/3 innings.
NOTES: Mets 3B David Wright (left shoulder) did not play Sunday. Wright was hit in the left shoulder by a pitch Saturday night. ... Mets RHP Jacob deGrom (right rotator cuff tendinitis) felt fine after throwing a bullpen session and remains on track to return from the disabled list next Saturday, the first day he is eligible. ... Prior to the game, the Cubs recalled OF Matt Szczur from Triple-A Iowa and optioned RHP Dan Straily to the same affiliate. ... 3B Kris Bryant, the Cubs prospect who leads all minor leaguers with 40 homers this year, was diagnosed with a left foot contusion after leaving Iowa's game Saturday night. He is day-to-day.