NEW YORK - The Nationals got themselves into a hole in their division last week after a sweep at the hands of the first-place Red Sox.
Many fans and reporters looked at the next three series against Marlins, Pirates and Mets as a chance for the club to get something going right before the All-Star break and cut into the Phillies and Braves’ lead atop the National League East.
Arriving in New York for another critical divisional series, the Nats are just 4-3 during the stretch in which they had hoped to take full advantage of against opponents with weaker records.
For the most part through 92 games, the Nats have defeated opponents playing less than .500 baseball. The Nats are 25-13 (.658) against those teams. But against teams with a better than .500 mark, they are 21-33 (.389).
In their division, the Nats are 16-17 (.485). But against the Phillies and the Braves, the Nats are 8-12, while their record is 8-5 against the Marlins and Mets. That means they have many more games remaining against the bottom half of the division. So far this season against the Mets, however, the Nats are just 2-4.
The Nats have not played a series in New York since April 16-18 when they went 2-1. Arriving at that stage early in the season, the Nats had stumbled to a 7-9 record and the Mets were 12-2. It is well documented from the Nats’ standpoint what happened since, as the club is now just 46-46. But the Mets have fallen off the grid since that series, going just 25-51 - a stunning .329 spiral.
As the Nats fan base understands, it has not been wine and roses for them, either. The club is just 13-23 (.361) since a 20-7 (.741) May. In one-run games, the Nats are 9-16.
The Nats need to take advantage of this series against the Mets. Because after the All-Star break, the Nats face the Braves and then go on the road against the NL Central-leading Brewers. As a matter of fact, the Nats have 20 games remaining against NL Central clubs with winning records: the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals. Those three teams are a combined 34 games above .500.
Before today’s game, injured right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session. He hopes to return for that Braves series next week, but may need to make a second minor league rehabilitation start.
Tonight, the Nats now need to ride the good vibes of a Max Scherzer (11-5, 2.33 ERA) start into a series-opening win against the stumbling Mets. Scherzer fired one of his two career no-hitters at Citi Field on Oct. 3, 2015. He is 8-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 15 career games (14 starts) against the Mets.
He will be opposed by Mets left-hander Stephen Matz (4-6, 3.31). Matz lasted four innings, allowing three runs on three hits, including a first-inning three-run shot to Ryan Zimmerman, in a no-decision April 18 here against the Nats.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where: Citi Field, Flushing, N.Y.
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly sunny, 78 degrees, no chance of precipitation, winds south at 9 mph
SS Trea Turner
LF Juan Soto
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Mark Reynolds
2B Daniel Murphy
CF Michael A. Taylor
C Matt Wieters
RHP Max Scherzer
RF Brandon Nimmo
2B Asdrúbel Cabrera
3B José Bautista
LF Michael Conforto
1B Wilmer Flores
CF Matt den Dekker
C Kevin Plawecki
SS José Reyes
LHP Stephen Matz