The New York Mets (56-71) finish their seven-game Citi Field stay with a three-game set against the Washington Nationals (64-64) this weekend. The Mets, who have split 12 games with their division rival this season, will look to further extinguish any remaining playoff hope for the quickly fading Nationals.
The Mets are coming off a series split with the San Francisco Giants in which they took the middle two games and dropped the Monday and Thursday contests. The matinee finale featured a marquee pitching matchup between Madison Bumgarner and Cy Young hopeful Jacob deGrom, who continued his fantastic season despite picking up the loss. He maintained his sparking 1.71 ERA by pitching 6 innings and striking out 10 while allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits. With only a handful of starts left this season, every deGrom start matters as he hopes to separate himself from Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola, who pitched against each other on Thursday and each produced quality starts of their own.
Jeff McNeil remains a bright spot in a bleak season, as he collected eight hits in 13 at-bats against the Giants to continue his impressive rookie campaign. Since his call-up, he is slashing .330/.387/.485 in 29 games, which is good for a 139 wRC+ and a 0.9 fWAR. McNeil continues to make a serious case for a spot on the 2019 roster as he has excelled since arriving in the major leagues.
Wilmer Flores also had himself a good series, picking up six hits in 13 at-bats against San Francisco. Overall in August, he has 28 hits in 89 at-bats (.315), a .813 OPS, and a 122 wRC+. Flores has gotten consistent playing time this season and has has performed well offensively, posting a .278/.332/.447 slash line with a 111 wRC+ and a 0.8 fWAR in 338 at-bats. However, with Jay Bruce expected to be activated on Friday and the rest of the infield positions occupied by McNeil, Amed Rosario, and Todd Frazier, Flores’s playing time may soon diminish.
The Nationals have dropped 10 of their last 16 games and have fallen eight-and-a-half games off the pace in the National League East. They also trail the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot by six-and-a-half games and would need to leapfrog four teams in order to claim that spot.
With such a bleak outlook for the rest of the season, the club all but waved the white flag earlier this week, parting ways with former Met Daniel Murphy and first baseman Matt Adams. They sent Murphy, who had a .329 average and was a two-time All-Star in two-and-a-half seasons with the Nationals, to the Chicago Cubs while unloading Adams, who had 18 home runs, a .257 average, and an .842 OPS in his only season with the club, to the St. Louis Cardinals. There was even a moment when it looked like they might trade Bryce Harper to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the two clubs never reached a deal after Los Angeles claimed Harper off waivers.
The team’s woes come despite receiving another Cy Young-worthy season from Scherzer, who remains deGrom’s biggest competition for the top pitching prize. The ace leads the National League in innings pitched, WHIP, and strikeouts, although he trails deGrom in ERA, FIP, and fWAR. Scherzer, who will not face the Mets this weekend, is looking for his third consecutive Cy Young Award and fourth in six years.
Friday, August 24: Gio Gonzalez vs. Jason Vargas, 7:10 p.m. on WPIX
Gonzalez (2018): 133.2 IP, 118 K, 67 BB, 14 HR, 4.51 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.55 WHIP
In what will likely be his final season with the Nationals, Gonzalez has stumbled after shining early on. After posting a 2.10 ERA and 3.11 FIP through 11 April and May starts, he has a 6.75 ERA and a 5.32 FIP in his 14 subsequent appearances. The walk continues to be his undoing, as he leads the National League with 67 base on balls after leading all of baseball with 79 last year. He is coming off one of his worst outings of the year after allowing a season-high eight earned runs on ten hits with five walks in just 4.2 innings against the last-place Miami Marlins on Sunday. He will look to right the ship against a Mets team that he has historically dominated to the tune of a 2.90 ERA in 25 career starts.
Vargas (2018): 58.2 IP, 47 K, 23 BB, 14 HR, 7.67 ERA, 5.99 FIP, 1.72 WHIP
After not tossing a pitch into the sixth inning in any of his previous 12 starts this season, Vargas has pitched into the sixth in back-to-back games. In his last outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, Vargas tossed five shutout innings in Williamsport before faltering in the sixth and allowing a two-run home run to Carlos Santana. With Corey Oswalt moving to the bullpen, Vargas will have every opportunity to prove to the Mets that he can effectively contribute as a member of the rotation in 2019.
Saturday, August 25: Tanner Roark vs. Zack Wheeler, 4:05 p.m. on FS1
Roark (2018): 153.1 IP, 127 K, 48 BB, 17 HR, 4.05 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.27 WHIP
Since the Mets lit up Roark on July 13 (5.0 innings, four earned runs, eight hits), he has produced his best six-start stretch of the season. Since the All-Star Break, he has pitched 38.2 innings and allowed eight runs (seven earned), which is good for a 1.63 ERA to go along with a 2.80 FIP and a 0.88 WHIP. He was well on his way to another stellar outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday before a rain delay forced him out after three shutout innings. In 15 career starts against New York, he has a 3.17 ERA.
Wheeler (2018): 58.2 IP, 47 K, 23 BB, 14 HR, 7.67 ERA, 5.99 FIP, 1.72 WHIP
Wheeler continued his impressive August with a splendid outing against the Giants his last time out. He went seven innings and allowed one earned run while striking out a season-high 10 batters. It was his first time reaching double-digit strike outs since 2014. He demonstrated some of his best command of the season, tossing 81 of his 113 pitches (72%) for strikes, which matches a season-best. In six second-half starts, he has a 1.38 ERA, a 2.06 FIP, and a 0.85 WHIP while posting a 27 percent strikeout rate. In that span, batters have managed a minuscule .479 OPS against Wheeler.
Sunday, August 26: Jefry Rodriguez vs. Steven Matz, 1:10 p.m. on SNY
Rodriguez (2018): 29.2 IP, 23 K, 16 BB, 5 HR, 5.46 ERA, 5.61 FIP, 1.52 WHIP
The Mets will get their first look at Rodriguez, who was ranked the 16th prospect in the Nationals’ organization by MLB Pipeline before the season. Rodriguez struggled in his first three starts, allowing a combined 15 earned runs in 14 innings, but he has since settled down. In two August starts against the Atlanta Braves and Marlins, he went five innings in each and gave up one earned run and two earned runs, respectively.
Matz (2018): 114.2 IP, 106 K, 43 BB, 20 HR, 4.55 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
It looked like Matz was heading toward another discouraging outing after allowing a two-run home run to Evan Longoria in the first inning on Tuesday night. However, he was able to settle down and retire 12 straight batters and 14 out of 15 in his five-inning performance. It was an encouraging result after he lasted just two innings and allowed six runs (four earned) in his first start off the disabled list against the Phillies. The first inning continue to plague Matz, as he’s allowed 26 out of his 67 runs (38.8%) in the first frame. He has allowed a first inning run in each of his last four appearances.
Prediction: The Mets will take two out of three from the Nationals.
How will the Mets fare in their three-game series against the Nationals?
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Sweep the Nats and end their playoff dreams
Two out of three to take the lead in the season series
Mets steal a game but drop the series to their rivals
A sweep leaves the Mets seeing stars
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