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How the Nationals have dominated the Mets in the season's first half

How the Nationals have dominated the Mets in the season's first half

After taking three of four at the New York Mets with their 3-2 victory on Sunday, the Nationals enter the All-Star break with a 54-36 record and a six-game advantage in the NL East. They tied Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez and the strike-jilted 1994 Montreal Expos for the most wins before the break in franchise history.

Perhaps most impressive is not just how the Nationals have arrived here, with a team-record five players headed to the All-Star Game, but how they've fared in their head-to-head matchups against the Mets. The Nats have now won six of seven vs. New York and in that one loss they still scored seven runs.

Washington is 9-4 against the Mets through 13 games this season. That's after winning only eight of their 19 matchups in 2015, when the Mets captured the division. And in those 13 games this year, the Nats own a 63-36 advantage in runs scored, an average of over two runs per game (4.84 to 2.77).

Three players in particular have set the tone for the Nationals in their season series with the Mets: Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. All three are 2016 NL All-Stars, yet each has been even better when playing New York.

Murphy has put up obscene numbers against his former team. He's 22-for-52 (.423) with seven homers and 21 RBI. The guy enters the second half as the favorite for NL MVP and that wouldn't be the case if you removed his production in games against New York.

The Mets created the monster that is Murphy, long a good hitter who last year with the help of their coaching staff may have turned into a great one. And now they are directly feeling his wrath.

It's like that weird, made-up dinosaur that wreaked havoc in 'Jurassic World' last summer, the Indominus Rex. Just because the Mets brought this new, power-hitting incarnation of Murphy to life, doesn't mean they know how to stop him.

Scherzer has also saved his best for the Mets. His 3.03 season ERA looks pedestrian compared to his 0.87 mark through three starts against New York. He has 29 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings and has allowed just eight hits to Mets batters. Strasburg has similarly dominated the Mets through three starts with 30 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings and a 1.83 ERA. 

The break is coming at a good time for the Metropolitans, who this past week learned Matt Harvey will miss the rest of the season and saw both Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes leave Friday night's game with injuries. Neither Syndergaard or Cespedes will appear in the All-Star Game while they recover.

At this point in the season, it seems like nearly everything has gone right for the Nationals while just about everything has gone wrong for the Mets. That New York is only six games back is almost hard to fathom given their injuries and the Nats' relative health.

What happened last year, however, may present a caveat and a lesson the Nationals should remember. It wasn't in early July that the Mets made their trades and took over the NL East. The Nats just played Game 90 of the 2016 season. In 2015, it wasn't until Game 101 that they went to New York on trade deadline day and saw the division begin to slip out of their hands.

Yes, there is a lot of baseball to be played and no one needs to tell the Nationals that. They have been here before and know the rest of their season can go several very different ways.

But so far, at the midway point of the 2016 MLB season, the Nats have done everything they can to set themselves up well for the second half. And without another game against the Mets until September, New York will have to do their catching up the hard way: not only take care of their own business, but simply hope and pray the Nats start slipping.

[RELATED: Murphy again homers Nats past Mets]

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm