Series Preview: New York Mets @ Washington Nationals


The Mets have lost yet another series, their fourth series loss in a row, yet they’re coming off a victory in the finale against the Cincinnati Reds. Their eight-run outburst last night was only two runs less than the amount of runs they scored in their previous five games. So, let’s hope that David Wright and Ike Davis are starting to get hot again and are ready to carry the team back from their 56-62 record to give them something respectable to end the season as the calendar gets ready to turn to September.

How the opposition is doing:

It’s come to the point in the season where the contenders and pretenders show who they really are. At 73-45 and the best record in Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals are a contender. They’ve won eight of their last ten and hold a healthy 32-22 home record in 2012. The offense has gotten a boost after getting Jayson Werth back from his wrist injury, and he’s come out of the gates hot, hitting .382 in his last 10 games, and .314 on the season. Michael Morse (.300/.325/.478) is also among the team leaders in offense, and Cesar Izturis has gotten two hits in four at-bats as a National while Washington patiently waits the return of Ian Desmond (.286/.322/.503). Adam LaRoche continues to lead the power department with 23 homers and 77 RBI, with Ryan Zimmermanproviding some protection with 16 long balls and 66 rib-eye steaks of his own.

There has been plenty of talk about Stephen Strasburg‘s (14-5, 2.91 ERA) impending shutdown once he hits his innings limit, but the rest of the Washington pitching staff has been holding their own. Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 2.38) has been having a solid year in the rotation as well, but it’s the bullpen that has been the key to Washington’s success in 2012. They currently boast five relievers (Ryan Mattheus, Mike Gonzalez, Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett) with 30 or more appearances and an ERA of less than 3.00.

Probable pitching match-ups:

Johan Santana (6-8, 4.58 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18 ERA)

It has not been a fun stretch for Johan Santana of late, as he’s not only pitched ineffectively, but also had to endure a trip to the disabled list. The Mets’ ace has given up 27 earned runs in his last 14 innings pitched, and this start is important in showing that he is indeed healthy. One of the best second half pitchers in the game, Santana is hoping to start erasing his 0-3 record and 19.29 ERA in three second half starts in 2012. Detwiler is coming off a loss in his last outing against Arizona, but he was also battling illness during his start. He’s pitched at least seven innings in four of his last six starts, and is happy to be pitching at home, where he’s recorded five of his six victories this season.

Jonathon Niese (9-6, 3.67 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.74 ERA)

Niese is coming off a dominant eight-inning start against the Braves on Sunday Night Baseball, but has been unable to put together two straight quality starts since the end of June and beginning of July. Despite his inconsistency of late, he’s put together a better second half than first half so far, posting a 3.51 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and .240 opponent batting average. Jackson got the win against the Dbacks his last time out, but it’s now been three straight starts that he’s failed to make it through six innings. It’s shown in his progression from month-to-month, with August being the worst thus far through three starts, where he has a 1-1 record with a 5.40 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and a .277 opponent batting average.

Jeremy Hefner (2-4, 4.76 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (15-6, 3.29 ERA)

Hefner gets his first start as a member of the newly formed six-man rotation earlier this week. He did struggle a bit in his time with the Mets in the first half (1-3, 5.76 ERA), but since he was called up to fill Santana’s rotation spot while he was on the shelf, he’s been fantastic (1-1, 3.76 ERA in 3 starts and 7 total appearances). He’s much happier to pitch on the road (3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) than on the road (5.94 ERA, 1.53 WHIP). With a month and a half left, Gio Gonzalez has already tied the Nats’ club record in single-season wins, getting his 15th victory in his last start. Since he gave up 6 runs in 3.1 IP on July 19th against the Mets, Gio has gone five straight starts with at least 6 innings pitched, including a seven-inning shutout performance against New York on July 24th.

The Mets will win this series if:

They can hit left-handed pitching. With Detwiler and Gonzalez starting the series opener and finale, respectively, Terry Collins will most likely be running out most of his right-handed hitters to try and get an advantage. New York currently has a .260/.350/.404 line with runners in scoring position, but they have struggled mightily with getting big hits in situations in which they need them most. For a team that’s 26th in the MLB with 98 team home runs, situational hitting is directly related to their success.

When the bullpen gets a lead, they need to shut the door, quickly. In their last two wins, the Mets entered the 9th inning with a 6-1 lead on Atlanta and 8-1 lead on Cincinnati. Once the games were finished, they won 6-5 and 8-4. The relievers must put teams to sleep quickly, because it’s demoralizing for an offense to build up a big lead, then watch it almost evaporate.

Let’s see if the Amazins can improve upon their 3-9 record against the Nats in 2012…Let’s go Mets!