Earlier this year, New York took two out of three in Nationals Park before dropping the series at Citi Field the following week. Both teams viewed themselves as division contenders at the start of the season but have since fallen below .500. Entering the series, the Mets and Nationals reside at third and fourth place, respectively, in the National League East.
The Mets took care of business against the 10-29 Miami Marlins over the weekend, although the weather prevented them from going for a third win on Sunday and reaching the .500 mark. On Friday, the offense erupted for an eight-run first inning against Miami starter Pablo Lopez. It was the most runs the club had scored in an opening frame since they dropped nine in a game in 1988. That offensive outburst was more than enough support for Zack Wheeler, and the club cruised to an easy 11-2 win. Amed Rosario hit an opposite-field, Grand Slam in the first, while Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil added solo home runs in the second and third innings, respectively, to extend the lead. It was also McNeil’s 100th big league game.
On Saturday, Jacob deGrom was his usual incredible self as he pitched seven innings of one-run ball to earn the win. For the game’s first five innings, at least, it looked like the same old song and dance for deGrom, as he was dominant while his team’s offense was dormant. With the score knotted up at one in the sixth inning, Pete Alonso (who else?) and Conforto connected on back-to-back solo home runs to back their ace. deGrom, meanwhile, contributed a run-scoring single later in the frame to give his team some breathing room. It was the pitcher’s second hit of the game and fourth in 16 at-bats this season.
While the team’s offensive struggles as a whole are still very much a cause for legitimate concern, three Mets players rank in the top ten in the National League in several prominent offensive categories. The aforementioned Conforto has been a reliable presence in the team’s lineup despite a brief slump during the early part of this month. On the season, the outfielder ranks sixth in the National League with a .412 OBP, sixth with a 1.6 fWAR, and tenth with a 153 wRC+ while falling just short of the top ten with a .930 OPS.
Meanwhile, Alonso continues to impress early on in his young career. The first baseman is tied for seventh in the National League with a 1.5 fWAR and ranks ninth with a 154 wRC+, ninth with a .948 OPS, and fifth with a .319 ISO. He also ranks third in the National League—and first among all rookies—with 12 home runs. Polar Bear Pete’s close friend McNeil has also done his part to prove 2018 was no fluke, as he’s established himself as one of the best pure hitters in the league. McNeil is currently tied for seventh with a 1.5 fWAR and ranks third with a .440 OBP, second to Cody Bellinger with a .360 batting average, seventh with a 160 wRC+, and eleventh with a .937 OPS. He is one of only seven National League hitters to accumulate 50 hits through May 14.
The team’s starting pitching has also turned a corner after a brutal opening month to the season. Since May 1, the Mets own a National League-best 3.21 FIP while finishing behind only the Chicago Cubs with a 2.48 ERA. Their 0.86 HR/9 is also the second-best mark among National League clubs. In that time, deGrom leads the way with a 1.29 ERA with Wheeler posting a 2.53 ERA in May.
The scuffling Nationals recovered from a three-game sweep at the hands of the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers and earned a hard-fought split against the National League’s best squad. The Nationals shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night behind Patrick Corbin’s brilliance but were shut out the very next night by starter Kenta Maeda. After coming from behind to score five runs in the eighth inning on Saturday for a 5-2 victory, the Nationals went quietly on Sunday afternoon and picked up one lone hit in a 6-0 defeat.
Things have not been going well for the Nationals since the Mets last saw them on April 7. Since taking two of three at Citi Field and following that up with two wins in three games against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark, Washington has won just one series, which came against the San Francisco Giants from April 16 - April 18. The Nationals had dropped six straight series before their weekend four-game set in Los Angeles.
The team’s offense has failed to adequately fill the void left by Bryce Harper’s offseason departure. Through May 14, the Nationals rank tenth in the National League with an 87 wRC+, .309 OBP, a .705 OPS, and 176 runs scored. Unsurprisingly, Anthony Rendon is leading the way for Washington with a 162 wRC+, a 1.012 OPS, six home runs, and a 1.3 fWAR despite missing some time earlier this season with an elbow injury. Juan Soto also landed on the Injured List earlier this month but returned over the weekend and should be readily available for this upcoming three-game set against the Mets. The 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up is hitting .243/.364/.450 with a 119 wRC+ and a 0 fWAR in 30 games.
Tuesday, May 14: Noah Syndergaard vs. Jeremy Hellickson, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Syndergaard (2019): 49.0 IP, 54 K, 12 BB, 7 HR, 5.14 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 1.33 WHIP
Syndergaard will make the start after two extra days off following Sunday’s rain out. Syndergaard become something of an enigma for the Mets. After putting together one of the most impressive outings in his career, Thor seemingly reverted back to the inconsistent pitcher he’s been through much of this season. He was charged with five runs (four earned) on nine hits over six innings in a game the Mets would come back to win. Out of his eight starts in 2019, Syndergaard has yielded five runs or more in half of them after going 30 straight starts without giving up five runs. He also gave up two more home runs and has now allowed seven long balls in eight outings after allowing nine all of last year. In two starts against the Nationals earlier this year, Syndergaard allowed six earned runs on eight hits while striking out 13 over 12 innings.
Hellickson (2019): 31.0 IP, 26 K, 13 BB, 7 HR, 5.52 ERA, 5.62 FIP, 1.61 WHIP
With one of the best front-ends of the rotation in baseball, the Nationals were hoping that Hellickson could adequately fill one of the final two spots after a solid 2018 campaign (3.45 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.07 WHIP in 19 starts) for Washington. Hellickson has failed to live up to those hopes so far, pitching to a 5.52 ERA, a 5.62 FIP, and a 1.61 WHIP in six starts. After earning wins in his first two outings against the Phillies and the Giants, the 32-year-old right-hander has a 7.79 ERA and a 6.16 FIP in 17.1 innings, with opposing batters hitting .329 with a 1.002 OPS against him. In that span, he’s posted a 3.1 HR/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
Wednesday, May 15: Wilmer Font vs. Patrick Corbin, 7:05 p.m. on SNY
Font (2019): 18.0 IP, 19 K, 5 BB, 3 HR, 5.50 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
Font will get his second start for the Mets in place of an injured Jason Vargas after making fine first impression against the San Diego Padres. In his debut for the club, Font fired off four innings of two-run ball while allowing three hits and striking out one. He threw 39 of his 60 pitches for strikes and didn’t walk a batter, which left a lasting impression on Mickey Callaway, who said of the 28-year-old, “I liked his stuff. A downhill fastball, good split and he flashed a plus-slider a couple of times. He threw strikes and got ahead and did a heck of a job.” Having pitched most of his career in the American League, Font doesn’t have a lot of experience against the Nationals, although he did toss two scoreless innings against them in one relief appearance.
Corbin (2019): 50.2 IP, 58 K, 17 BB, 6 HR, 3.20 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 1.11 WHIP
Corbin has been every bit as good as the Nationals expected when they signed him to a six-year, $140 million contract over the offseason. Corbin is coming off his best start of the year, shutting out the Dodgers over seven innings while limiting them to three hits. He did walk four in the victory, but also struck out eight. Aside from one bad start against the St. Louis Cardinals in which he allowed six earned runs in five innings of work, Corbin has held opponents to three earned runs or less while lasting at least six innings in each of his other seven starts. That includes his first two outings of 2019 against the Mets, although he did not earn the win in either appearance. Corbin currently ranks 12th among qualified National League starting pitchers with a 3.20 ERA.
Thursday, May 16: Zack Wheeler vs. Anibal Sanchez, 1:05 p.m. on SNY
Wheeler (2019): 49.2 IP, 58 K, 19 BB, 3 HR, 4.35 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 1.35 WHIP
The Mets have to be happy with how Wheeler has rebounded after a rocky start to his 2019 campaign, especially since tt took Wheeler well into July last year before he began pitching like this. In his last start against the Marlins, he matched his season high with 11 strikeouts while holding Miami to two earned runs on nine hits and one walk in seven innings. He threw an astonishing 75.7% of his 107 pitches for strikes while earning his third victory of 2019. He only really ran into trouble in third, when he allowed four straight singles, which drove in Miami’s only two runs on the evening. He’s now gone seven innings in four of his last five outings. The Nationals will present an interesting challenge for the 28-year-old right-hander. The last time he saw Washington, he walked a career-high seven and allowed seven earned runs while failing to escape the fifth inning.
Sanchez (2019): 41.0 IP, 39 K, 24 BB, 6 HR, 5.27 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 1.68 WHIP
In his first year with the Nationals, the Sanchez has mostly been abysmal. The 14-year veteran has the fourth-worst ERA among National League starting pitchers with at least 40 innings while sporting a league-worst 5.27 BB/9. He has also failed to eat innings for Washington and has pitched into the seventh inning just once this season. In his last start against Dodgers, Sanchez was charged with three earned runs on six hits over 4.1 innings as he earned his league-leading sixth loss in 2019.
Prediction: The Mets drop the middle game but bookmark the series with wins to climb back to the .500 mark.
How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Nationals?
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The Mets bring the pain as they sweep the Nationals away
It’s a repeat of the season’s opening series as the Mets take two in DC
The Mets steal a game but fall to the flailing Nationals
It’s Not What You Want, as the Mets are swept away by the annoying Nationals