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Mets-Nationals series preview

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Mets-Nationals series preview

By Doug McKinney
CSNwashington.com

Mets @ Nationals
46-43 3rd in NL East 51-36 1st in NL East

The Rundown
Tuesday, July 17-Thursday, July 19
Series 30
Season Series Record: Nationals lead 4-2

Pitching Probables
Tuesday, July 17 7:05 pm
Jon Niese (7-4, 3.73 ERA) @ Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.43 ERA)
denotes left handed pitcher

Wednesday, July 18 7:05 pm
Chris Young (2-3, 4.28 ERA) @ Jordan Zimmermann (6-6, 2.48 ERA)

Thursday, July 19 12:35 pm
R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.66) @ Gio Gonzalez (12-4, 2.93 ERA)
denotes left handed pitcher

Whos Hot & Whos Not
Mets
Hot: SS Ruben Tejada - .390 AVG, 4 RBI in last 10 games
Not: SP R.A. Dickey 10 ER in 12 IP in July (7.50 ERA)

Nationals
Hot: 2B Danny Espinosa .324 AVG, HR, 3 RBI in last 10 games
Not: C Jesus Flores .120 AVG in July

A Series Look
The Nationals return home after a split in Miami. Was it a series they should have won? Probably. But all things considering, seeing how bad the Nats track record is against the Marlins a split may not be the worst of things.

Next on the docket is a slumping Mets team, who is 3-7 in their last 10 games and losers of four straight. New York has fallen to third place, while the red hot Braves are now just 2.5 games back from the 1st place Nats.

Setting the tone for the series will be a pair of lefties who have nice numbers on paper, but may not have pitched as well as one would think. Detwiler, who arguably had his best start of the years against the Mets (his first start of the season), hasnt pitched more than 6.2 IP this season and has given up seven runs in his last two starts (and an astonishing 16 hits). Niese, is coming off one of his worst starts of the year, hasnt faced the Nats this year.

Tomorrow, in a nationally televised game, Jordan Zimmermann will look to continue his amazing season when he goes up against Chris Young (3-1, 2.74 ERA all-time vs. WSH). In Thursdays matinee, Nats hitters will have the daunting task of facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. But it wont be much easier for the Mets, as they take on Gio Gonzalez.

While the Mets are six games back from the Nats, it still is an important series for Washington and a very crucial homestand. With the Braves breathing down their necks and the Mets in striking distance, a 5-2 mark at home vs. the 2nd and 3rd place teams would be very encouraging.

Prediction: Nationals win series 2-1

News and Notes
>The trade deadline is nearing and while the Nationals havent been mentioned in many rumors, I expect the club will be in the market for an elite starting pitcher and a catcher. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports mentions Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke and Francisco Liriano as possible SP targets as well as former Oriole catcher Ramon Hernandez. With Jayson Werth returning soon (see more below), I dont see the club looking for outfield help.

>Jayson Werth (wrist) will most likely start baseball activities tomorrow. If all goes well, the Nats brass hope he will be back in 2-3 weeks (first week of August).

>RHP Drew Storen (elbow) and Chad Tracy (groin) are inching closer to a return to the big league club. Storen should be back before the Brave series if things go all well in his next rehab appearance. Tracy is back in action after suffering a setback.

>Nats first round pick RHP Lucas Giolito will head to Viera, FL tomorrow to continue his rehab and pitch in front of Nationals officials to see what his next step will be. GM Mike Rizzo is hopeful he will pitch in a game in the near future.

>SS Ian Desmond will miss his third straight game this evening, but expect him to be in the line-up tomorrow or Thursday. The oblique injury may stick with him for the rest of the season, but he is not expected to be placed on the DL. While he has had been bothered by the oblique for sometime now, a good sign for Nats fans is that even on days where he hasnt felt his best, he has still hit and showed no problems in the field or on the base paths.
Down on the Farm

>AAASyracuse: SP John Lannan is expected to be called up Saturday to start one of the games against the Braves. Lannan is 8-5 with a 3.25 ERA all-time against Atlanta.

>AAHarrisburg: OF Destin Hood who has been bothered by a wrist injury for most of the season, went 3-for-4 with 2 2B and RBI (30) last night. Hood is considered one of the Nationals top 10 prospects.

>A (Advanced)Potomac: A new home and badly needed one at that is looking like a real possibility for the Potomac Nationals. The P-Nats unveiled plans for a 6,000-7,000 seat, state of the art stadium that would be built in time for the 2014 season. For more, view this report: http:www2.insidenova.comsports2012jul1713new-stadium-share-location-comm...

>AHagerstown: 2011 1st round pick Alex Meyer continues to dominate at Hagerstown. In his latest start, Meyer went 6 IP with 4 H and 9 K. In his last 13 IP, the Nats 2012 Futures Game representative has only given up 1 ER.

>A (Short Season)Auburn: The Doubledays are currently 18-9 on the season, good enough for 1st place in the Pinckney division of the NY-Penn League.

>RookieGCL and DSL Nationals: Ivan Pineyro has an ERA of 2.38 with a team leading 23 K this season (22.2 IP). The 20-year old is in his first year of GCL ball after pitching for the Nats Dominican Summer League team last season to a 4-6 record with an impressive 2.20 ERA.

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If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close

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USA TODAY Sports Images

If the Nationals’ season isn’t over, it’s close

NEW YORK -- Dealing with tomorrow has often become the only palatable way for the Nationals to forget yesterday.

They lose in eye-gouging fashion, roll in the next day to reset, and, at least in New York, find a topper. That formula has them on a train home from what could have been a series for re-emergence, but instead placed them in a worse place than they started. Washington is 19-31 following a sweep in Flushing. It would have to go 71-41 (a .634 winning percentage) to reach 90 wins. If it’s not already, the season is on the verge of being over. Manager Davey Martinez disputed that idea.

“I mean we're not out of it that's for sure, I can tell you that right now," Martinez said after Thursday’s 6-4 loss. “Like I said, everyday we're close, we compete, we're in every game. Now we just got to finish games.”

A slog-filled drive from midtown to Queens delivered the tired team back to its baseball quarters Thursday morning. Sean Doolittle changed then pulled his red hood up, sitting at his locker 10 hours after he stated he was “disgusted” with himself for Wednesday’s crash. Such a devastating night has been common for the 2019 Nationals. It was not for Doolittle. He hit a batter for the first time since May 29, 2018. He allowed four earned runs in an outing for the fifth time in 348 career appearances (1.4 percent of the time he pitches). In keeping with the season, the worst-possible outcome arrived at the worst-possible time, then another terrible one followed.

Martinez remained upbeat, sipping a morning drink concoction common in his native Puerto Rico. He rewatched Wednesday's game -- a masochist’s errand this season -- as he regularly does, went to sleep around 2 a.m., awoke at 7, arrived at Citi Field around 9:45. The leash on his future has been shortened greatly by the four failing days in New York.

The Nationals wandered out for stretch and light throwing in front of an oddball scene. Thursday was “Weather Day” at Citi Field with the Big Apple-famous Mr. G hosting in his Mets jersey. Mr. G  -- known to his friends as Irv Gikofsy, New York City’s most popular weatherman -- kicked up a “Let’s go Mets!” chant down the third base line while the Nationals relievers ran routes and caught a foam football to get loose in the same part of the park. The recently re-emerged Mrs. Met, who popped back up in 2013 after decades of dormancy, used her giant noggin to nod along.

The game was another compilation of missed opportunities, bullpen disasters and bad luck. Washington left eight runners on base through the first six innings alone. The Mets’ path to runs was aided by slop and basics. Carlos Gomez single in the fifth. He ran to steal second, Yan Gomes’ throw went into center field, Gomez went on to third base. A sacrifice fly scored him.

J.D. Davis singled in the sixth. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch. Stephen Strasburg’s wild pitch moved them both over. Another sacrifice fly scored one, a Wilson Ramos infield single scored the other. The Mets led, 3-1.

The Nationals didn’t score with runners on first and third and one out in the first. They did not score after Juan Soto’s leadoff triple in the second inning. They did not score after a one-out double in the third. They did not score with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth. They did not score with a runner on second and one out in the fifth. This is not hyperbole for effect. It’s facts. Sigh-worthy ones.

The only effective offseason signings are Kurt Suzuki and Patrick Corbin. The others have not just resided below expectations, they have been among the worst in the league at their position.

Gomes, acquired in a trade, leads the league in passed balls. He’s committed three errors in his 29 starts. Coming into Thursday, he had a 65 OPS-plus (100 is average).

Brian Dozier started the afternoon with a 73 OPS-plus and -0.5 WAR. Those two numbers would be worse if not for a recent uptick both in the field and plate from him.

And, the most egregious failure of the offseason has been Trevor Rosenthal’s saga. Martinez was asked directly Wednesday if Rosenthal simply has the “yips”. He said they still believe Rosenthal’s problems are mechanics, not thoughts, despite him throwing baseballs to the backstop in central Pennsylvania. The luxury-tax averse Nationals are paying him $6 million to do so.

Finally, Thursday was enough for Martinez to shed his tranquility. After Howie Kendrick was ejected in the top of the eighth, Martinez ran to home plate to start an argument of his own. He half-circled home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, yelled, pointed and carried on in a manner that begged Dreckman to throw him out. He did. Martinez went from rankled to furious. He spiked his hat, kicked the dirt, and yelled some more. The event provided his third career ejection and looked to be among the final moves of a manager on the verge of returning to private life.

A strange thing followed: his team rallied for three runs to take a 4-3 lead. No matter. There’s no goodness Washington’s bullpen can’t undermine. Wander Suero gave up a three-run homer in the eighth to Gomez. New day, different reliever, same ear-bleeding outcome.

Which again made talking about tomorrow the only way to deal with the grotesqueness of today. Trouble is tomorrow may not matter anymore.

“Things are going to change,” Martinez said. “Things are going to change. And I know that. So we just got to keep pounding away, keep playing baseball. There's good players in that clubhouse, really good players. We'll turn things around.”

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An irate Davey Martinez ejected in 8th inning as Nats swept by Mets

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Twitter/SNY

An irate Davey Martinez ejected in 8th inning as Nats swept by Mets

Perhaps Davey Martinez senses his job security is in serious jeopardy as the team continues to underperform and slip its way down the competitive NL East division. 

The second-year Nationals manager, who's gone 101-111 since accepting the job, reached a boiling point Thursday when he was ejected in the 8th for arguing a called strike three on a Howie Kendrick check swing. 

“I just didn’t think he [Kendrick] swung. And we just got into it. All I did was tell him to ask for help. That’s why the first base umpire’s there. And he didn’t like it. I did what I had to do.”

"Things are going to change. Things are going to change. And I know that. So we just got to keep pounding away, keep playing baseball. there's good players in that clubhouse, really good players. We'll turn things around," Martinez reiterated postgame, as he so often has this season. 

Martinez, typically mild-mannered in the dugout, tied Matt Williams on the all-time career ejections as a manager list with his third Thursday. 

First-year National and MLB veteran second baseman Brian Dozier stood behind his manager after the crushing loss. 

“Davey does a really, really good job of always defending his players. Whether that be on the field to an umpire, to you guys, in the media, in the clubhouse, wherever it is, he does a really good job of that.”

The Nationals' 6-4 loss to New York marked the team's fifth straight as it falls to 19-31 on the season. They return home Friday night for a four-game set at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins. 

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