Nationals

Quick Links

Nats' right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to make season debut in 1st of 3-game series vs. Mets

usatsi_10300747.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nats' right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to make season debut in 1st of 3-game series vs. Mets

NEW YORK — During spring training, plenty of people would have found it plausible that six games would separate the New York Mets and Washington Nationals by April 16. But few would have expected the Mets to be the ones off to the fast start.

The Mets will look to continue the best start in franchise history — and continue digging the Nationals an early-season hole — on Monday night when New York hosts Washington in the opener of a three-game series at Citi Field.

Jacob deGrom (2-0, 3.06 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Mets against the Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson (season debut) in a battle of right-handers.

The Mets gained another game on the Nationals on Sunday when Wilmer Flores' walk-off homer in the ninth inning lifted New York to a 3-2 win over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. Meanwhile, host Washington fell to the Colorado Rockies 6-5 on Ian Desmond's solo homer in the top of the ninth.

RELATED: HOW NATS DROPPED 3-OF-4 GAMES VS. ROCKIES

With the win, the Mets improved to a National League-best 12-2. Before this season, New York has twice started 11-3 -- in 1986 and 2015. It made the World Series both seasons.

There's a long way to go between now and October, of course, but getting off to such a fast start has infused the Mets, who went 70-92 last season and finished 27 games behind the National League East-winning Nationals -- with a cohesion and a confidence they are building something sustainable.

"This team is really close, even though it's only been together for a couple months now," said Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who finished a double shy of the cycle Sunday. "I think everybody's pulling for each other. And when you're pulling on the same end of the rope and everybody's trying to get that team win and put good at-bats together, you're going to break through every now and then."

The Nationals (7-9) could use a breakthrough in the midst of a 3-9 spell, a stretch in which they've been outscored 58-38. Washington, which is ahead of only the dismantling Miami Marlins in the NL East, has squandered a lead in five of its losses, including Sunday, when the Rockies came back from deficits of 1-0 and 3-1.

RELATED: FANTASY BASEBALL AND STEPHEN STRASBURG

"We've just got to keep pushing," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're going to win games, I know that. We've just got to play. We've got to capitalize in big moments. We haven't done that. And we've got to be able to put teams away early, when it counts, not wait until late. We had opportunities to put this team away today early and we couldn't do it."

DeGrom didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start last Tuesday, when he gave up four runs in six innings in the Mets' 8-6 win over the Marlins.

Hellickson, who signed with the Nationals in March, made two starts in extended spring training league games in Florida but hasn't pitched in an official game since his final start of last season with the Baltimore Orioles. He will be officially added to Washington's 25-man roster on Monday.

DeGrom is 6-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 13 career starts against the Nationals. Hellickson is 2-4 with a 7.81 ERA in eight career starts against the Mets. It is the highest ERA that Hellickson has posted against an opponent he has faced more than twice.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER'S HOME RUN TRACKER

Quick Links

Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

soto-rendon-usat.png
USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

MORE NATS COVERAGE: 

Quick Links

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

The biggest story in Nationals prospects this week is the three Washington lost to the Royals in return for closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s a look at what the Nationals gave up to add more depth to the bullpen.

Kelvin Gutierrez, AA 3B

The infielder, formerly on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, has posted a .285/.344/.388 line through his six-season minor league tenure. One of his greatest strengths is his speed, with 55 career stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits this season. His other notable tool is his powerful arm strength, which may help explain his transition from shortstop to the hot corner.

Blake Perkins, High A OF

The Nationals chose outfielder Blake Perkins in the second round of the 2015 draft. He has quite a bit of room to improve at the plate, batting .234/.344/.290 this season in Hagerstown. However, what he lacks offensively, he makes up for in the outfield. According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, Perkins has “plus speed, mature instincts, excellent routes and an above-average arm.”

Yohanse Morel, RHP

The biggest wild card of the group, Morel is a 17-year-old outfielder-turned-pitcher from the Dominican Republic. His fastball reaches 95 mph and he certainly has huge potential for growth. He has not yet pitched in the U.S. since making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in early June.

So, what did the Nationals gain?

Right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star who is currently in the midst of a stellar season. In his Nats debut, he needed just six pitches to shut down the Orioles in the eight. The team is reportedly (and understandably) thrilled to have Herrera joining the roster. Adam Eaton said, "I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

Latest Nationals News: