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Mets desperately try to stop the bleeding as they host Nationals

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The last time the Mets were at Citi Field, they were in first place; they return in third place.

MLB: AUG 08 Mets at Phillies Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The no-longer-in-first-place Mets (56-55) will look for any glimmer of hope as they try to save their season against the Nationals (50-62). The Mets have dropped five of eight to Washington this year, though the current Nationals roster is very different from the team the Mets last faced in June. The Mets will need to take advantage of the 11 games they have against the Nationals if they want any hope of getting back into first place.

The worst-case scenario played out this weekend, as the Mets were swept by the Phillies and dropped from first all the way down to third in the NL East. On Friday, the Mets continued their trend from the Miami series and blew a number of scoring opportunities in a 4-2 loss. After Didi Gregorius hit a mammoth homer off Marcus Stroman in the second, the Mets tied it up in the third on a Dominic Smith run-scoring single—the lone hit New York picked up with runners in scoring position in eight tries. New York loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth, but Stroman struck out, and Brandon Nimmo grounded into a first-pitch double play. The Mets fell behind when Kyle Gibson helped himself with a run-scoring single in the fifth, and Philadelphia put the game out of reach with Bryce Harper’s two-run dinger in the eighth off Edwin Díaz. Jonathan Villar homered in the ninth, but it was not enough.

The Mets fell on Sunday 5-3 despite hitting three consecutive homers. Tylor Megill limited his opponent to one hit through the first four innings, but he fell apart in the fifth, allowing a bomb of a home run to Brad Miller and a three-run shot to Odúbel Herrera. Miller added his second homer of the game in the eighth against Yennsy Díaz to make it a five-run ballgame. Michael Conforto, Villar, and James McCann hit back-to-back-to-back homers in the ninth, but all it did was turn a five-run loss into a two-run loss.

The Mets dropped 2.5 games out of first place and right into third place with a 3-0 defeat on Sunday. Zack Wheeler, who parlayed two good half-seasons into a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies, dominated the Mets over the course of a complete game, two-hit shutout. Nimmo led off the game with a double, and then Wheeler set down 22 straight batters until Conforto’s eighth inning walk. Taijuan Walker had his best start post-All Star break, but Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto each hit solo homers in the first, which was more than enough for Philadelphia’s ace. Harper added a homer in the sixth, just to drive the knife in a bit deeper. Nimmo hit a one-out single in the ninth, but they once again failed to bring him home.

It was a demoralizing weekend in Philadelphia, there’s no way around it. The Mets, who held a five-game lead in the division as recently as June 26, and who had not been in second place since May 7, now find themselves in third and 2.5 games back of the division lead with 51 games to play. The Mets held a 4.5 game lead after trouncing the Pirates 13-4 back on July 9, and they have since proceeded to go 10-17 while dropping seven full games in the standings. The Mets have not put together a winning streak of three games since taking three straight from the Cubs in mid-June, and they haven’t won more than three straight since taking five in a row to end the month of May. So much of this stemmed from their inability to take advantage of playing the Pirates back in July, and just their failure to capitalize when their division rivals were playing their worst baseball.

The season is by no means over, and it’s better to suffer this kind of slide with time left on the calendar rather than in the final week of the season when it’s too late, but nothing about the team’s play has been particularly inspiring, and it’s hard to imagine them going on the type of run necessary to jump back into first, especially with 13 straight against the Dodgers and Giants coming up this month. At some point, the Phillies will cool off, but now the Mets have to also worry about the Braves, who overtook them this weekend.

The offense has been the main culprit, as it has failed to pick up the slack as the pitching expectedly regressed as their innings have climbed up over a full season of work. Since the start of their 11-game homestand back on July 23, the Mets own a .301 OBP, a .354 SLG, a .655 OPS, and an 84 wRC+, each of which rank third-from-the-bottom in the NL, ahead of only the last-place Pirates and last-place Diamondbacks.

The Nationals jettisoned pretty much everything but Juan Soto and the kitchen sink at the trade deadline, and they have gone 3-7 since that point. In their annoying dedication to always screw over the Mets, the Nationals were swept by the Phillies and then lost two out of three against the Braves last week.

The Mets won’t have to worry about Trea Turner or Max Scherzer—that’ll come when they face the Dodgers over the weekend—but they will still have to contend with Soto. The lone remaining star on the Nationals’ roster is hitting .297/.427/.499 with 18 homers, a 146 wRC+, and a 3.3 fWAR over 101 games. Josh Bell leads the current roster with 19 home runs while slashing .249/.313/.474 with a 107 wRC+.

Tuesday, August 10: Paolo Espinosa vs. Carlos Carrasco, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Espinosa (2021): 66.1 IP, 49 K, 12 BB, 10 HR, 3.66 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, 0.7 bWAR

Espinosa was drafted in 2006 and, after many starts and stops over the course of his career, he has finally found some success this year with Washington. The right-hander, who had only 54.0 innings coming into this year (48.0 in 2017 for the Brewers and Rangers, and six for the Nationals last season) has 66.1 innings pitched in 2021. He’s bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation, but with recent developments, he’s likely to have a home in the latter for the rest of the year. In his most recent start, he gave up six earned runs on eight hits over five innings to the Phillies. He earned his second win of the season against the Mets back on June 28, as he shut them out over five innings of five-hit ball.

Carrasco (2021): 8.1 IP, 9 K, 1 BB, 3 HR, 3.24 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 0.1 bWAR

Carrasco continues to build up his stamina at the major league level, and should hopefully be able to give the club at least five innings this time out. In his most recent start against the Marlins, he allowed two hits through the first four, but ran into trouble with three hits to the first four batters in the fifth, the last of which drove in a run. He was pulled there and, in the end, was charged with two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts over 4.1 innings. His command was on point, as he tossed 43 of his 62 pitches (69%) for strikes, and he did not walk a batter. These are all encouraging signs for the veteran right-hander, who continues to work his way back from the hamstring injury that cost him most of the year.

Wednesday, August 11: Joe Ross vs. Rich Hill, 7:10 p.m. on SNY

Ross (2021): 103.0 IP, 107 K, 33 BB, 17 HR, 4.02 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 1.1 bWAR

With Scherzer in Los Angeles, Stephen Strasburg done for the season, and Patrick Corbin struggling, Ross is perhaps Washington’s best starter right now. In his last outing, he allowed three earned runs on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over 6.1 innings against the Phillies, in a game his club would go on to lose. Prior to that, he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits over 4.1 innings. He dominated the Mets in April at Citi Field, allowing one earned run over six innings in a win, but he was hit hard by the Mets at Nationals Park in June, as he was tagged for five earned runs over five innings.

Hill (2021): 110.1 IP, 99 K, 40 BB, 16 HR, 3.92 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 0.6 bWAR

Hill turned in his best outing in three tries as a member of the Mets. Over five innings, he allowed just one run, which was unearned thanks to a Conforto error. He limited Miami to three hits while walking one and striking out three over his five innings. As was expected when the Mets picked up Hill, he is basically a five-inning pitcher, and you cannot expect him to go much beyond that. If he can limit the damage, as he did in his most recent start, he will be giving his new club exactly what they really need from him.

Thursday, August 12: Erick Fedde vs. Marcus Stroman, 12:10 p.m. on SNY

Fedde (2021): 87.1 IP, 79 K, 37 BB, 13 HR, 5.15 ERA, 4.60 FIP, 1.41 WHIP, -0.5 bWAR

On June 18, Fedde shut out the Mets over seven innings, in a game Washington would go on to win 1-0. On that date, he lowered his ERA to 3.33. Since then, it has risen by almost two runs. In that span, he has pitched to a 7.75 ERA, a 5.64 FIP, and a 1.78 WHIP over 36.0 innings in eight starts. He has dropped four decisions over that span without earning a win. In his most recent appearance, he allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits, with one walk and three strikeouts in 4.2 innings. He has failed to go five innings in five of his last eight starts.

Stroman (2021): 127.0 IP, 106 K, 29 BB, 12 HR, 2.83 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 2.1 bWAR

Stroman had a solid outing in Philadelphia and did all he could to keep the Mets in the game, but he couldn’t overcome their offense. He allowed two earned runs on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. He threw 59 of his 91 pitches (65%) for strikes in the outing, and in general, he has not walked more than one batter in a start in any outing since the beginning of July. On the downside, this made it eight out of nine starts where Stroman has failed to complete six innings, which is something the Mets desperately need from him with the rest of their rotation failing to give them any length.

Prediction: The Mets drop two out of three to the Nationals.

Poll

How will the Mets fare in their three game series against the Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    The Mets take their frustrations out on the Nationals in a three-game sweep!
    (42 votes)
  • 29%
    The Mets get back on track by taking two out of three.
    (59 votes)
  • 20%
    The Mets continue their slide at home by dropping two out of three.
    (41 votes)
  • 16%
    The free falling Mets are swept by the Nationals at home.
    (34 votes)
  • 12%
    Pizza!
    (26 votes)
202 votes total Vote Now