Manager: Terry Collins, fourth year
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 1B Lucas Duda (.258/.352/.492, 22 doubles, 21 HR, 64 RBIs); 2B Daniel Murphy (.304/.347/.437, 33 doubles, 9 HR, 51 RBIs, 67 R); RHP Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.54 ERA, 1.10 WHIP); RHP Bartolo Colon (11-9, 3.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats: 2-7, 30 runs scored, 48 runs allowed
The Nationals have won just one of their last five series, and it came against the Mets.
The Nats will be looking to continue their dominance in New York as they take on the fourth-place Mets for the second time in three sets, this time at Citi Field.
The Mets are coming off a series win in Philadelphia, where they took three of four from the Phillies, while the Nats dropped their series in Atlanta, losing two of three. Before that, Washington won two of three against New York at Nats Park.
The Mets haven’t won a season series over the Nats since 2009 and after splitting the series in 2010, Washington has been in complete control against its National League East rivals.
Over the last four seasons, the Nats are 43-21 against the Mets with much of that success coming in New York. Washington is 22-4 at Citi Field since September 2011 and has won its last eight in a row there.
The upcoming series won’t look exactly the same as last week’s, as the Mets start a completely different set of pitchers. The Nats missed right-handers Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee last time, but will face both this series. Also, right-hander Jacob deGrom was placed on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, so the NL Rookie of the Month for July won’t make his scheduled start tonight. Instead, the Nats face rookie right-hander Rafael Montero for the first time.
The 23-year-old Montero starts tonight’s opener against Doug Fister, returning to the major leagues in deGrom’s place. During his first call-up with the Mets in May, Montero produced mixed results, alternating good starts with rough ones. He tossed quality starts against the Yankees and Diamondbacks, but combined to allow eight runs in eight innings over his other two starts. He went 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA overall before being returned to the minors.
Montero, who entered the season as 68th-best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, is 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 17 minor league starts split between three levels this season. Now he tries to halt the Nats’ winning streak at Citi Field.
The 41-year-old Colon takes on Jordan Zimmermann in the second game of the series. Colon has been solid in his first season with the Mets, leading the team with 11 wins, 154 1/3 innings and 1.2 walks per nine innings. Although he has a 3.97 ERA on the season, he has gone 9-4 with a 3.09 ERA in his last 15 starts.
On Aug. 3, Colon had one of his worst starts of the season, allowing six runs in 4 2/3 innings. But he responded with one of his best, allowing one run in eight innings his last time out.
Gee faces Stephen Strasburg in the series finale. Gee has been one of the Mets’ best starters, going 4-4 with a 3.54 ERA in 14 starts. He started his year strong, going 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in his first nine starts. Gee then went through a brief slump, going 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA over his last three outings in July. But the 28-year-old has since gotten back on track, allowing three runs in 12 2/3 innings (2.13 ERA) over his last two starts.
Overall, the Mets have been solid on the mound, ranking seventh in the NL with a 3.55 team ERA, eighth with a 3.70 rotation ERA and fourth with a 3.25 bullpen ERA.
The Mets can be proud of their relief corps this season, but they have 17 blown saves and struggled to find a closer in the early going. That is, before 24-year-old right-hander Jenrry Mejia made the transition from starter to reliever to closer. Mejia is 5-5 with 17 saves in 20 chances and a 3.89 ERA in 43 appearances (seven starts).
As a reliever, he has a 2.70 ERA in 36 appearances, but that number has been inflated by recent woes. Mejia has been scored upon in three of his last four appearances, allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings (9.82 ERA). During that slip, he’s 0-2 with a blown save.
Offense has been an issue for the Mets for much of the year. They rank ninth in the NL with 459 runs, 13th with 88 homers and a .670 OPS, and 14th with a .238 average.
Even so, New York scored at least five runs in three of the four games against the Phillies and has some potent weapons in its lineup.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy leads the NL with 147 hits, ranks third with 33 doubles, eighth with a .304 average and 11th with 67 runs. He’s perhaps the Mets’ hottest hitter, batting .400 with three doubles, a triple, a homer, eight RBIs and five runs scored in his last nine games.
First baseman Lucas Duda has cooled off since hitting six homers in nine games from July 22 to Aug. 1. But he still leads the Mets with an .843 OPS, 21 homers and 64 RBIs.
Coming off an uneven weekend in Atlanta, the Nats will be looking to get back on track. Washington has been in the Mets’ heads in recent years and has to hope that continues to be the case as it looks to add to its four-game lead atop the NL East.