Manager: Terry Collins (7th season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: OF Michael Conforto (.320), C Travis d’Arnaud (.263, 9 RBIs), RF Jay Bruce (.293/.379/.638 with 6 HR, 14 RBIs), LF Yoenis Céspedes (6 HR, 10 RBIs), RHP Jacob deGrom (0-0, 1.89 ERA), RHP Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.45 ERA), RHP Addison Reed (4 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (7-12 in 2016)
Inside the Mets:
Fans in Queens have had this series circled on their calendars for months, but the first meeting between the Nationals and Mets - believed to be the top two teams in the National League East - doesn’t seem to have the big-game feel to it. First, it’s still early in the season and the teams play 19 times. Second, the Mets have been hit hard by injuries, especially to their pitching staff. Right-hander Matt Harvey has been bothered by a hamstring issue, righty Steven Matz just started throwing after taking a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow three weeks ago, swingman Seth Lugo is on the disabled list with an elbow issue and closer Jeurys Familia is eligible to play for the first time this season after serving a domestic violence suspension imposed by Major League Baseball. So the version of the Mets that plays the Nats six times in a 10-game span might not be the one that battles the Nats at Citi Field in the season’s penultimate weekend. Right now, the Mets are third in the NL East, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals, with the Marlins in second, two games off the pace.
While inconsistent pitching has left the Mets a middling team to date, their offense has also been a mixed bag. They rank 24th in the majors in batting average (.220), but have hit the second-most home runs (25). They’re 10th in runs scored (72), but dead last in stolen bases (three). Injuries have bitten the bats, too - two days ago, the Mets lost two starters, first baseman Lucas Duda (hyperextended left elbow) and catcher Travis d’Arnaud (right wrist contusion). d’Arnaud has driven in nine runs and Duda has homered four times since April 8. That leaves the bulk of the offense on the shoulders of left fielder Yoenis Céspedes and right fielder Jay Bruce. Both have hit six homers, with Bruce’s 14 RBIs outpacing Céspedes 10. However, Céspedes pulled up lame and limped out of Thursday night’s loss to the Phillies. But the Mets are getting very little in the way of contributions from second baseman Neil Walker, center fielder Curtis Granderson and third baseman José Reyes.
Righty Jacob deGrom, Friday’s starter, has posted a 1.89 ERA in three starts this season, yet’s he’s still searching for his first decision. At Citi Field, opponents are only 2-for-20 against him, though he’s allowed an overall .333 (4-for-12) mark in the opening inning, so expect some aggressive approaches early on from the Nationals. He’s 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA in seven career starts against Washington. Saturday starter Harvey looks like he’s made a decent comeback from the thoracic outlet surgery that short-circuited his 2016 season. His mechanics appear sound and he’s holding foes to a .136 average in home starts. Harvey has made 13 starts versus the Nats - his most against any single opponent - and he has gone 3-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Harvey has Bryce Harper’s number - he’s 1-for-26 with seven whiffs off the Dark Knight. Right-hander Zack Wheeler has worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, which cost him the last two seasons, and is still rounding into form, as his 5.52 ERA in three starts might suggest. Left-handed hitters are pounding him at a .333/.394/.600 clip and current Nats are slashing .329/.379/.506 off him. His career stats against Washington aren’t much better - a 2-6 record and 5.09 ERA in eight starts.
Familia will end up closing for the Mets, but he’ll have to be worked back into the mix after missing the first three weeks of the season. In his place, righty Addison Reed has saved four games in as many opportunities with an elevated 3.72 ERA and a sterling 0.72 WHIP.