December 15, 2017

Washington Nationals Series Preview: New York Mets

The National League East is about to get a whole lot more exciting…or a whole lot more boring. The Nationals (49-41) open up a three game series with the Mets (48-44), a team they enter the series leading by just two games in the National League East. Six of the Nationals’ next 13 games are against the Mets, so by the first weekend in August we’ll probably have a better picture of how the East will shake out.

For the Nationals the series also marks the end of a “homestand” where they haven’t had to travel far since July 2nd, when they were in Atlanta to face the Braves. The Nationals had two home series and then a series in Baltimore before the All Star break (when players traveled for different reasons), then this six game homestand. Next the Nationals play ten games on the road, in Pittsburgh, in Miami, and then in New York against the Mets again.

By that series at Citi Field the trade deadline will have passed, and we’ll get an idea if the National League East will be a two-team race…or whether the Nationals will have put some distance between themselves and the pack and can focus on getting healthy for October.

*The Last Time…

The Mets and Nationals haven’t seen each other since early May, when the Nationals took three out of four against the Mets in New York. In that series the teams split the first two games before the Nationals posted back-to-back 1-0 wins, a sign of offensive struggles to come for the Mets. The Mets took two out of three in the season-opening series between the two teams.

*In The Other Dugout

Just how badly do the Mets need an offensive spark? Their starting pitchers have out-hit their bench players, for one thing. Pitching is far and away the Mets’ strength (on the mound as well as at the plate). Jacob deGrom gave the baseball world a peek at just how strong when he struck out the side on 10 pitches in his inning of work during the All Star Game. The Mets adjusted their rotation coming out of the All Star break so that deGrom and Matt Harvey would face the Nationals in this series…Noah Syndergaard will start the third game. What Mets fans really want to see, though, is an adjustment to the lineup, so those pitchers get the run support they have lacked most of the season.

*Matchup To Watch

The Mets could get an early indication of how their offense will go against Washington in the first game. Juan Lagares (.421), Michael Cuddyer (.375), and Daniel Murphy (.350) have all hit well against Gio Gonzalez. If those core lineup pieces hit, the Mets might actually score some runs. Also worth noting for Monday night: Bryce Harper is 0 for 12 with 6 strikeouts against Matt Harvey.

The best pitching matchup could very well come in Wednesday’s early start, and not just because Noah Syndergaard will be sending an extra vowel against Jordan Zimmermann’s double consonants. The day game after the night game is one factor, but Noah Syndergaard has also given up just three runs and struck out 19 in his last two starts.

*Probables

Monday, 7:00pm: Matt Harvey (8-6, 3.07 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.99 ERA)

Tuesday, 7:05pm: Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.14 ERA) vs. Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.43 ERA)

Wednesday, 12:35pm: Noah Syndergaard (4-5, 3.05 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (8-5, 3.27 ERA)

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