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Nats ready for 1st matchup with Mets: 'We want to come in and beat you'

Nats ready for 1st matchup with Mets: 'We want to come in and beat you'

Before they went on a deep playoff run and reached the World Series, the New York Mets first caught fire in the second half of the 2015 season to run away with the NL East. After the All-Star break even the Nationals were no match for the Mets, who swept them in two consecutive series - one in August and one in September - to capture the division crown.

If the Nationals are to reverse their fortune and climb back on top this year, they will likely need to do a lot better in their head-to-head matchups with the Mets. New York took 11 of their 19 meetings last season and that included a meaningless series in October when the Nats took two of three at Citi Field. 

On Tuesday night, the two teams meet for the first time in 2016. Both are near the top of the division, as expected, with the Nationals in first place and the Mets just 1 1/2 games behind. 

"It’s a big series," manager Dusty Baker said. "Something’s going to shake in this next week."

Baker is pleased his team is in first place heading into their first matchup with the Mets, but knows they can play better than they have. The Nationals have lost two straight games and only scored one run in each of those contests. They are 7-8 in May after finishing April at 16-7.

The Mets, though, aren't playing their best baseball, either. They just got swept in four games against the Colorado Rockies and are 6-9 in May. The Mets are also dealing with some pitching issues, as Matt Harvey is off to a troubling start, Steven Matz has a sore elbow and Jacob deGrom's velocity is down. 

Both teams will try to find their footing against each other, which could make for an interesting series.

"If somebody said in the middle of May that we’d be going to New York in first place, I’m sure everybody would’ve been happy," Baker said.

As two teams that had strong Aprils before struggling this May, the Nationals and Mets are quite evenly matched in many statistical categories. 

The Nats and Mets rank second and third in team ERA, respectively. Both are in the middle of the pack in run production, while both rank in the top seven in baseball in homers. 

Both teams also have new additions at second base that have adjusted well early this season. For the Mets, that's Neil Walker who is second on the team with 10 homers. And for the Nationals, that's Daniel Murphy, who leads the majors with a .400 batting average.

Murphy represents a central storyline to the rivalry now having played seven seasons with the Mets before joining Washington as a free agent this past winter. 

Murphy himself wouldn't add any fuel to the fire, instead opting to focus on how the Mets are a division opponent. 

"Should be a lot of fun. Built a lot of relationships with the guys there, it would be nice to see them, it'll be nice if we can go and win some baseball games," he said.

Baker, though, didn't hold back is own opinion about Murphy returning to Citi Field.

“New York’s always fun to go there. You know the people in New York, probably some will jeer him but I think most will cheer him. Because if the Mets had wanted to keep him, they had plenty of chances to keep him. It wasn’t as if Murph left. It was kind of like Murph wasn’t invited to stay," Baker said.

Tuesday night will pit Max Scherzer against Noah Syndergaard in a matchup of superstar right-handers. Scherzer is fresh off his 20-strikeout performance against the Tigers, while Syndergaard has been the Mets' best starter so far.

Scherzer, who no-hit the Mets the last time he faced them, knows this series is as important as they get in mid-May.

"Look, that's the team that beat us. Much respect to what they did last year. They get all the credit and deserve all the credit. But, look, we want to come in and beat you. It's as simple as that."

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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

It's 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