Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-2 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
How it happened: After winning just eight of their 19 matchups against the Mets in 2015, with two of those wins coming in a meaningless series to close the season, the Nationals know their head-to-head bouts with New York could make the difference in their quest to climb back atop the hill and reclaim their status as kings of the NL East.
So far, it's going a lot better than it did a year ago.
With their 4-2 victory on Wednesday night, the Nats moved to 6-3 against the Mets this season. In doing so, they earned their first home sweep of New York since Sept. 28-30 of 2009. Bryce Harper had yet to be drafted and Lucas Giolito was 14 years old.
This win was powered by another dominant performance by Max Scherzer against the Mets. He went 7 1/3 strong innings with no runs and just two hits allowed.
Scherzer's cause was helped by Daniel Murphy's 13th and 14th homers of the season and a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth. The Nats held the Mets scoreless for 23 1/3 innings before James Loney hit a two-run bomb off Shawn Kelley in the ninth inning to put New York on the board. Kelley earned a four-out save after closing the eighth inning with two runners in scoring position.
What it means: The Nationals have now won four straight games and sit 47-32 on the year. They are 27-13 against NL East teams and lead the Mets by six games with the Marlins in second at 5 1/2 back.
Murphy keeps killing the Mets: With the best batting average in the NL, Murphy has been good against just about everyone this year. But against the Mets, he's been a real pain. The Nats second baseman is now 15-for-35 (.428) with four homers and 11 RBI vs. his former team this season.
Murphy sent a 1-1 curveball from Verrett to the second deck in right field to lead off the bottom of the second, then launched a 1-1 Sean Gilmartin changeup into the home bullpen in the eighth. The second was his 14th homer of the season, which tied the career-high he set just last year. The Nats have only played 79 games this year, which puts him on pace for 29, more than double his career-best. Murphy has now hit safely in 10 of his last 13 games and 15 of his last 31 hits have gone extra bases (6 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR).
Scherzer mows down the Mets: The Mets and their struggling lineup were no match for Scherzer on Wednesday, as the Nationals ace was surgical from the start to the tune of 7 1/3 shutout frames on just two hits and one walk. Before he allowed his second hit of the night, a single to Brandon Nimmo with one out in the eight, Scherzer had retired 18 straight batters.
The right-hander notched six strikeouts in the first eight batters he retired and finished with 10 overall on the evening. It was the seventh time this season he's posted double-digit strikeouts and the fourth time he's done so in his last five starts.
As for his dominance against the Mets, Scherzer now holds a 1.66 ERA in six starts vs. New York since he signed with the Nationals. Over his last three matchups with them, he's surrendered just two earned runs on five hits across 22 2/3 innings.
Espinosa gets on twice: It was another solid game for Danny Espinosa, who reached base twice with a double and a walk. The Nats' shortstop has now has 28 walks in 77 games this season after drawing 33 total in 118 games in 2015. Espinosa scored the Nats' second run of the game on Werth's sac fly after leading off the third inning with a double.
Up next: The Nationals remain home to begin a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night. The opener will pit Gio Gonzalez (3-7, 4.73) up against fellow lefty Brandon Finnegan (3-6, 3.83) with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.