The New York Mets (70-82) embark on their final road series of the year as they face the Washington Nationals (77-75). What had all the makings of a crucial four-game September series at the beginning of the season has ended up as a meaningless series between two teams that are playing out the rest of their respective seasons.
The Mets dropped two out of the three to the Philadelphia Phillies and, in the process, lost their second consecutive series while falling to 2-4 on their current road trip. They also fell to 37-40 on the road this season. The team’s latest loss guaranteed that they will finish with a losing record for the second consecutive year and the eighth time since Citi Field opened in 2009.
Things got off to an encouraging start on Monday night, as the Mets’ bats erupted for nine runs on 14 hits to drop the Phillies and take the opener behind Zack Wheeler. The start would be Wheeler’s last of 2018, as Mickey Callaway announced yesterday that they were shutting him down due to his workload.
Wheeler battled some command issues and was hit hard in the fifth inning — when he allowed all four earned runs — but he was still able to give the Mets seven innings and set a career high with 12 victories. Wheeler also finished 2018 by posting career best marks in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and WHIP. Michael Conforto had a big night, contributing a home run and three hits while driving in six of the team’s nine runs. Jeff McNeil added three hits of his own to continue his offensive onslaught since being called up from Las Vegas.
The Mets dominated the Phillies through the first 15 innings, but the series turned in the bottom of the sixth on Tuesday night. After Steven Matz was removed following five scoreless, two-hit innings, the bullpen combination of Jerry Blevins and Drew Smith allowing five earned runs — including the decisive three-run home run off the bat of Jorge Alfaro — and the bats went quietly into the night as they dropped the middle game 5-2.
The Phillies carried the momentum into Sunday and shut the Mets out behind Zach Eflin. Noah Syndergaard struggled and only lasted four innings before being lifted a pinch-hitter in the fifth. He allowed three earned runs on four hits while striking out six and walking three. He didn’t have his best command, which led to an alarmingly high pitch count early in the game that set the tone for the rest of the night. The offense could only muster six hits in this game, three of which came off the bat of the scorching-hot Amed Rosario.
With the Phillies in the rearview, the Mets head to Washington D.C. to face the underachieving Nationals. While the Mets were unable to deal a damaging blow to Philadelphia’s playoff chances, they will have the opportunity to effectively end Washington’s season. The Nationals sit seven games back of the Atlanta Braves and six-and-a-half back for the second Wild Card spot, and their elimination number is down to four.
The Nationals enter the series on a bit of a hot streak, as they have won eight of their last 11 games after splitting two games in Miami with the Marlins this past week. This could be the last time the Mets see nemesis Bryce Harper in a Nationals uniform. In his final season before hitting free agency, the former Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL MVP is slashing .247/.394/.501 with 34 home runs and a league-leading 123 walks in 149 games. Despite some struggles, he still ranks seventh in the National League with a 136 wRC+ and ninth with an .894 OPS.
The Mets will also get their final opportunity to inflict damage on Max Scherzer’s Cy Young chances and help out their teammate Jacob deGrom in the process. Scherzer, who leads the National League with 277 strikeouts and is eight strikeouts away from setting a new career high in the category, will pitch tonight opposite Jason Vargas. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star has typically handled the Mets very well in his career, posting a 2.34 ERA in 104 innings against New York. The Mets were afforded a similar opportunity earlier in the week against Aaron Nola and dented his ERA slightly after scoring two earned runs in 5.2 innings against him.
Thursday, September 20: Jason Vargas vs. Max Scherzer, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Vargas (2018): 79.1 IP, 70 K, 28 BB, 17 HR, 6.47 ERA, 5.42 FIP, 1.54 WHIP
Vargas had a bounce back performance in his last start against the Marlins on September 13. The only blemish against him was a third inning two-run home run to Miguel Rojas, but otherwise he kept his opponent in check over six innings. He finished with seven strikeouts while allowing four hits and earned his fourth win in his last five starts. On the season, Vargas has struggled with the long ball, as his 1.93 HR/9 mark is the third highest in the National League.
Scherzer (2018): 206.2 IP, 277 K, 49 BB, 21 HR, 2.53 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 0.92 WHIP
Scherzer is coming off his worst start of the year after allowing six earned runs in four innings in a loss to the Braves. He has now given up three earned runs or more in his last four starts and has seen his ERA balloon from 2.13 to 2.53 during that span. Scherzer, who is vying for his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award, leads the league in strikeouts, wins, and WHIP but trails deGrom by a significant margin in ERA, ERA+, and FIP. In his only start against the Mets this year, Scherzer allowed three earned runs in seven innings and earned the victory at Citi Field back in July.
Friday, September 21: Jacob deGrom vs. Joe Ross, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
deGrom (2018): 202.0 IP, 251 K, 45 BB, 10 HR, 1.78 ERA, 2.05 FIP, 0.95 WHIP
deGrom was again impressive without his best stuff in his last start against the Boston Red Sox. With his streak of allowing three earned runs or less in jeopardy after he was tagged for three runs in the third inning, deGrom buckled down and kept the Red Sox off the board for his final four innings of work. He ended the night with 12 strikeouts and extended his quality starts streak to 22 — which tied a major league record — and his record streak of allowing three runs or less to 27 (even though his league-leading ERA rose from 1.71 to 1.78). Every deGrom start this year has been a must-watch event, as he has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball while simultaneously receiving almost no support from his offense in the process. He will have to earn a win in his last two starts to avoid ending the season with either a .500 record or a losing record.
Ross (2018): 5.0 IP, 10 K, 2 BB, 0 HR, 3.60 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 1.20 WHIP
Ross will make his second start of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in July 2017. He tossed 74 pitches across five innings while yielding two earned runs and four hits to the Chicago Cubs on September 13. Ross actually made his season debut on September 4 but only lasted 1.2 innings before rain postponed the game and wiped his start off the record books. Ross has made six previous starts against the Mets and has a 4.29 ERA to show for it.
Saturday, September 22: Corey Oswalt vs. Tanner Roark, 4:05 p.m. on WPIX
Oswalt (2018): 55.2 IP, 37 K, 15 BB, 13 HR, 6.31 ERA, 5.88 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
Oswalt will make the start in place of Zack Wheeler, who was shut down for the rest of the season. This will be Oswalt’s eleventh start for the club in 2018 and he has fared significantly better as a starter than when coming out of the pen. In 46.1 innings, he has a 5.05 ERA, as opposed to his 12.54 ERA in 9.1 innings as a relief pitcher. His last start came last Saturday against the Red Sox, when he held them to just one unearned run on three hits over 2.2 innings. He had one of his better starts of the year against the Nationals back in July, as he lasted five innings and gave up just one earned run on two hits.
Roark (2018): 180.1 IP, 146 K, 50 BB, 24 HR, 4.34 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
Roark had a rough three-game stretch after his solid start against the Mets on August 25, allowing 15 earned runs and 26 hits over 15.2 innings of work. However, he was rebounded in his last outing against the Braves and earned the victory after going 5.1 innings and allowing two earned runs on five hits. This will be his sixth time facing the Mets in 2018 and, for the most part, he’s performed fairly well against them. In 30 innings against New York, he’s allowed 13 earned runs (3.90 ERA). Roark has given up a career-high 181 hits this season, which also leads the National League.
Sunday, September 23: Steven Matz vs. Erick Fedde, 1:35 p.m. on SNY
Matz (2018): 145.0 IP, 140 K, 54 BB, 24 HR, 4.03 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.24 WHIP
Matz did it all in his last start except lead his team to victory (through no fault of his own). In addition to supplying five shutout innings, he also connected on his second home run in as many starts and made a sensational behind-the-back catch which turned into an inning-ending double play. Matz was removed early due to a high pitch count, which stemmed from allowing five walks during his five innings, and the bullpen promtly gave the game away in the sixth inning. Matz enters this start looking to lower his ERA below 4.00 for the first time July 30. With two starts to go in the year, the oft-injured lefty is destined to reach 30 starts for the first time in his career.
Fedde (2018): 43.0 IP, 41 K, 17 BB, 6 HR, 5.02 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.44 WHIP
Fedde lasted 4.2 innings and allowed two earned runs on two hits in his last start against the Marlins on Monday. The Nationals’ 2014 first round pick has been solid for the most part in the month of September, pitching 15 innings and allowing six earned runs (3.60 ERA) while allowing eight hits and striking out 22 and walking eight. While the Mets have not seen the right-hander yet this year, they did face him on August 27 last year and scored five runs off of him in six innings of work.
Prediction: The Mets will split the series with the Nationals.
How will the Mets fare in their four game series against the Nationals?
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Mets win four games and end the Nationals’ quest for a division title!
Three games out of four to end the series on a high note!
The Mets muster a split which gives them a 10-9 edge in the season series.
They steal a game but lose their third straight series on this road trip
The Nationals make one final playoff push by sweeping the Mets.