The New York Mets (37-53) conclude a rough first half of the 2018 season with a four-game set with the Washington Nationals (46-46), who have been on a downswing of their own, losing 17 of their last 25 games.
Winning three games this home stand via walk-off homers from Jose Bautista, the undisputed Mets walk-off king Wilmer Flores, and Brandon Nimmo, the Mets head into this series with the Nationals in a very different place than the last time the two teams met in Queens on April 18. Back then, the Mets were riding high in first place off their now infamous 11-1 start and even swept the Nats on the road. That amazin’ start is nothing but a distant memory as the Mets fight to stay out of the basement of the National League East.
The Nationals, much like the Mets, saw themselves at one point this season 11 games above .500, only to see that number slip away in recent weeks. Not everything has gone according to plan in Washington thanks to injuries and under-performing stars. Daniel Murphy has returned from knee surgery but is still shaking off the rust from missed time. The catching corps of Matt Wieters, Pedro Severino, and Spencer Kieboom has been uninspiring, leading to wonder if the Nationals could be a possible trade partner with the Marlins for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds have given the lineup additional power, with Reynolds driving in a career-high 10 RBI against the Marlins on Saturday. The Nats also added yet another bullpen arm via trade, acquiring former Royals closer Kelvin Herrera on June 18.
The Mets will get their first look at 19-year-old rookie outfielder Juan Soto, who has impressed in his first 47 games, hitting a respectable .304/.417/.540 with nine home runs and 28 RBI. The Nats’ former 19-year-old phenom and current superstar Bryce Harper has had a down year for his standards despite being third in the NL with 22 home runs. With a .213 average and 97 strikeouts in his final season before hitting free agency, one would have to wonder if his maladies at the plate will have an effect on his status as the top free agent heading into the offseason.
Thursday, July 12: Max Scherzer vs. Steven Matz, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Scherzer (2018): 127.2 IP, 177 K, 32 BB, 13 HR, 2.33 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 0.89 WHIP
Scherzer is having yet another stellar year. He did surrender three home runs and four runs total in seven innings against Miami, but he still got the win in an 18-4 romp.
Matz (2018): 89.2 IP, 81 K, 35 BB, 13 HR, 3.31 ERA, 4.65 FIP, 1.23 WHIP
Matz was solid against the Rays last Saturday, going six-and -a-third innings with five strikeouts, three walks and one run allowed on five hits. Unfortunately he was out-dueled by All-Star snub Blake Snell, who carved through the Mets lineup in a 3-0 victory for Tampa Bay.
Friday, July 13: Tanner Roark vs. Noah Syndergaard, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Roark (2018): 109.2 IP, 93 K, 41 BB, 15 HR, 4.76 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
The Marlins tagged Roark for 10 hits and four runs in four innings on Sunday. He has already tied his career high in losses at the midway point of the season despite posting near identical ERA and WHIP numbers as last year.
Syndergaard (2018): 64.2 IP, 76 K, 13 BB, 5 HR, 3.06 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 1.17 WHIP
Syndergaard will make his return from the disabled list Friday night after a bullpen session on Thursday. He’s been out since May 26 with a strained right index finger and looks just about ready to go after a successful rehab start with Low-A Brooklyn, having hone five innings with seven strikeouts and two hits allowed.
Saturday, July 14: TBD vs. Zack Wheeler, 4:10 p.m. on WPIX
Wheeler (2018): 99.2 IP, 99 K, 38 BB, 10 HR, 4.42 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 1.34 WHIP
Wheeler was unable to get out of the fifth inning in Monday’s start against the Phillies, with too many deep counts and 102 pitches in just four-and-two-thirds. He’ll look to break his streak of 13 straight starts without a win on Saturday.
Sunday, July 15: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Corey Oswalt, 1:10 p.m. on WPIX
Hellickson (2018): 57 IP, 43 K, 10 BB, 7 HR, 3.47 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 1.09 WHIP
Hellickson has been a surprising asset to the Nationals’ rotation this season. Coming off five shutout innings against the Pirates on Tuesday, he’ll look to go a bit deeper into the game on Sunday after working his way back from a hamstring injury he suffered in the beginning of June.
Oswalt (2018): 17.1 IP, 14 K, 6 BB, 4 HR, 6.75 ERA, 5.73 FIP, 1.15 WHIP
Oswalt comes off the best start of his young career on Monday, going six innings with seven strikeouts and one hit allowed. However, that one hit happened to come against opposing pitcher Aaron Nola, who laced a bases-clearing double to soil an otherwise stellar outing from Oswalt, who retired the first 12 Phillies that faced him.
Prediction: Mets split with the Nats.
How will the Mets fare at home against the Nationals?
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A four-game sweep to give the bitter first half a sweet ending.
Win the series 3-1.
A 2-2 split.
Lose three but steal one.
Get swept away in four games.