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Mets vs. Nationals: Will Amazins light up Washington with holiday fireworks?

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Just winning two out of three might not be enough to get the Mets back in contention.

Division Series - St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game Three Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

No matter what the Mets do in Washington during this strange holiday series that features a before-noon start on Tuesday, the team is likely to be heading into the trade deadline as a seller. That’s how thin the margin for error is these days for New York. Even though they’ve won seven of their last nine games, the Mets still find themselves seven losses back in the Wild Card standings and two behind supposed doormat Atlanta in the National League East.

The poor performance put forth by Rafael Montero and the rest of the team on Sunday afternoon was so disappointing because winning two out of three in a series isn’t good enough anymore. If the Mets are going to put themselves in position to make a run, they need to string a big chunk of wins together, and not just against bad teams. Enter the Nationals, a squad that has toyed with New York all season long and yet might have a worse bullpen.

Even before Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley went down with injuries, Washington was said to be in the market for a closer. Now that Dusty Baker’s two most reliable relievers are Matt Albers and Enny Romero, general manager Mike Rizzo is only going to push harder for a big arm at the July 31 trade deadline. Albers might have the statistical profile of a cromulent closer, but a team that is all-in like the Nationals are could use someone with a stronger track record.

If the Mets were willing to make a deal with the enemy, they could land a haul by trading Addison Reed to Washington. That doesn’t sound bad, especially since New York only needed a couple of fringe prospect to acquire Reed back in August 2015. However, it’s unlikely that the Mets will make a trade inside the division (Atlanta is an exception, obviously), so for now Reed, who has earned saves in his last three appearances, will have to figure out how to get Washington batters out.

That’s not an easy task, as the powerful trio of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman were rewarded with All-Star starting roles on Sunday night. The job would be even tougher if base-stealer extraordinaire Trea Turner was still at the top of the order, but the young stud is going to miss a chunk of the season with a broken wrist. The unfortunate injury has caused Baker to stick Michael Taylor and his .316 on-base percentage near the top of the lineup when a more fun option like Anthony Rendon is readily available batting sixth. He’s only hitting .298/.399/.555 with more walks than strikeouts in 2017, so burying Rendon seems wise.

Speaking of burying young stars, the Mets weren’t able to take enough at-bats away from Michael Conforto to keep him from making the All-Star team. He’s the one Mets representative for now, but maybe a certain floppy-haired pitcher can sneak in if enough roster spots open up.

What really stinks is that Conforto is unlikely to play in the Midsummer Classic now that he’s been placed on the disabled list with that wrist contusion. And just when Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera are starting to click, the Grandy Man could miss some time with a hip injury. That guy from Wyoming Brandon Nimmo started in Granderson’s place on Sunday and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout while batting leadoff.

Probable pitchers

Monday, July 3: Steven Matz vs. Stephen Strasburg, 6:05 p.m. on SNY

Matz: 27.0 IP, 18 K, 7 BB, 5 HR, 2.67 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 1.07 WHIP

Matz’s scoreless outing in Miami last Wednesday was his third timing completing the seventh inning this year, and he’s only made four starts! The consistent southpaw has a low strikeout rate so far, but opponents are still chasing his stuff outside the strike zone at a similar rate compared to 2016. The difference is that those batters are making contact outside the strike zone instead of whiffing, but perhaps that’s the reason behind Matz’s .218 BABIP. Fans should expect less contact but a higher BABIP in the future.

Strasburg: 102.2 IP, 122 K, 28 BB, 11 HR, 3.51 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 1.10 WHIP

The Mets did a good job making Strasburg work when they faced him two weeks ago in Queens. The overpowering right-hander only allowed two runs in that game, but he failed to complete the sixth inning due to an elevated pitch count. Strasburg had no such problem during his latest outing against the Cubs, as he needed just 96 pitches to get through seven innings despite tallying 13 strikeouts.

Tuesday, July 4: Seth Lugo vs. Joe Ross, 11:05 a.m. on SNY & MLBN

Lugo: 25.1 IP, 17 K, 8 BB, 3 HR, 3.55 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 1.34 WHIP

We’re four starts into Lugo’s second season with New York, and it’s still hard to find one thing that he does particularly well. There is that spin rate thing, but it doesn’t manifest itself in a high strikeout rate, and the right-hander’s BABIP is around league average in 2017 after finishing at .230 last year. As a result, Lugo probably won’t finish with a sub-three ERA again, but what’s important is that he continues to give the Mets quality innings like he’s been doing.

Ross: 63.1 IP, 59 K, 15 BB, 13 HR, 5.12 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.45 WHIP

When Ross is on the mound, fans should take the Terry Collins route and just throw the stats out the window. That’s because the 24-year-old is one of the most unpredictable starters in baseball. Upon getting called up to the bigs in mid-May, he got beat badly by San Diego and Oakland, two squads not known for their offenses. After that, Ross went out and dominated Baltimore with 12 strikeouts, zero walks, and just one run allowed in seven-and-one-third innings. Since then, he’s been on a streak of four games in a row with one home run allowed, including his most recent start against the Mets. Nevertheless, Ross’s last two outings have been decent with three runs allowed over 13.2 frames.

Wednesday, July 5: Jacob deGrom vs. Tanner Roark, 7:05 p.m. on SNY & ESPN

deGrom: 104.0 IP, 125 K, 38 BB, 14 HR, 3.55 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 1.22 WHIP

Four games in a row with exactly one run allowed and at least seven innings pitched! That’s what we’re up to with deGrom after he nearly no-hit Philadelphia on Friday night. The amazing one also struck out 12 batters in that matchup and walked just one for the second time in a row. deGrom still has no starts this season without a walk, so I guess that’s something new for him to shoot for as he continues to make Mets fans swoon.

Roark: 95.2 IP, 78 K, 36 BB, 12 HR, 5.27 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 1.48 WHIP

When we’ve talked about pitching mismatches in this rivalry, they usually aren’t in New York’s favor, but with the way deGrom and Roark have performed lately, you have to consider Wednesday’s contest a must-win. In each of his last four starts, Roark’s runs allowed have been greater than or equal to his innings pitched. That’s not the guy that Nationals fans have learned to love over the years, but the good news is that the Illinois product’s peripheral stats aren’t shockingly different from the one’s he posted last year. The biggest issues he has are an increase in hard contact against him, a few more balls leaving the park, and a walk rate that has steadily increased over the past four years. Then again, maybe it is time to start worrying about Roark.

Prediction: Mets win one of three.

Poll

How will the Mets fare this week in Washington?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Declare independence from the doubters with a sweep!
    (15 votes)
  • 29%
    Win two of three.
    (25 votes)
  • 23%
    Win one of three.
    (20 votes)
  • 21%
    At least we can get rid of these holiday uniforms now.
    (18 votes)
  • 7%
    Pizza!
    (6 votes)
84 votes total Vote Now