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Nats rotation has been surprisingly inconsistent

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Nats rotation has been surprisingly inconsistent

Doug Fister warmed up Thursday evening at Petco Park, was ready to take the mound for the bottom of the first inning against the Padres. And then he (along with everyone else from both clubs) was forced to sit around for two hours during a rare San Diego rain delay that began only six pitches into the Nationals' series opener.

By the time Fister actually took the mound after 9 p.m. local time, he might well have wished the game had simply been postponed, saving him from the frustration that followed.

Fister became the latest member of the Nationals rotation to get roughed up, giving up seven runs and eight hits in only two innings of work during what would end up an 8-3 loss to the Padres.

If you've lost track, that's now four times this season a Nats starter has allowed at least seven runs. And in each case, that starter has failed to complete at least four innings. It happened to Jordan Zimmermann in Boston. It happened to A.J. Cole in his major-league debut in Atlanta. And it has happened to Stephen Strasburg and Fister in a span of three days, with Strasburg getting rocked Tuesday night in Phoenix.

This from a rotation widely touted as the best in baseball.

The Nationals have had their share of dominant pitching performances this season, with starters giving up zero or one run 10 times already in 2015. But the lack of consistency has been surprising, as has the end result of it all.

Nationals starters now own a collective 4.16 ERA, good enough to rank only 17th in baseball, 10th out of 15 NL clubs.

That wasn't supposed to be the case. This was supposed to be the rotation to end all rotations, the one that featured five potential aces plus a 15-game winner relegated to the bullpen for lack of an available job.

That very well may still end up being the case. Good luck finding anyone to bet against a rotation of Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.

But these too-frequent disastrous starts are a potential problem. They wreak havoc on a bullpen, and certainly the Nationals' relief corps is begging for a light workload the rest of the weekend before enjoying two days off next week sandwiched around a mini-series against the Yankees.

Everybody's going to have a clunker of a night on the mound every once in awhile, but so far those clunkers are occurring with more regularity than the Nats would like. As noted above, already four times in 36 games this season a starting pitcher gave up seven or more runs. That happened only seven total times in 2014, and in every one of those cases the starter still managed to go at least four innings.

Perhaps this will be an afterthought by season's end and the Nationals rotation will yet prove to be among the best in the game.

But before they can even think about that, those five starters need to find a way to put together a lengthy stretch of quality outings and ditch the clunkers altogether.

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Nationals fall to Mets as postseason chances continue to slip away

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USA Today Sports

Nationals fall to Mets as postseason chances continue to slip away

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jacob deGrom turned in a record 23rd consecutive quality start, lowered his ERA to 1.77 and boosted his record to .500 as he bids to earn the NL Cy Young Award, allowing one run in seven innings to help the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Friday night.

Throwing fastballs in the 97-99 mph range, deGrom (9-9) struck out eight and walked one while allowing just one run and three hits, all singles. Bob Gibson (in 1968) and Chris Carpenter (2005) each had single-season runs of 22 quality starts, the previous major league mark.

The right-handed deGrom has given up as many as four earned runs in only one of his 31 starts in 2018, back on April 10 against Miami. He's now up to 28 in a row allowing three runs or fewer, the longest single-season streak in major league history.

So this game was pretty much wrapped up by the third inning, which ended with the Mets ahead 4-1. Jay Bruce had two run-scoring hits, and Devin Mesoraco and Dominic Smith also delivered RBIs, all off Joe Ross (0-1).

Robert Gsellman worked around Anthony Rendon's RBI single in the ninth for his 12th save.

Washington began the day in danger of being officially eliminated from contention in the NL East, which it won the past two seasons under then-manager Dusty Baker. A loss by the Nationals plus a victory by the Braves would end any chance Washington has of catching Atlanta.

DeGrom is locked in what's considered a tight race for Cy Young honors -- and perhaps league MVP consideration, too -- with Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who is 17-7 with a 2.57 ERA and 290 strikeouts. Scherzer has won the past two Cy Young Awards in the NL, plus one in the AL when he played for the Detroit Tigers.

In the Mets' 5-4 victory in 12 innings Thursday, Scherzer gave up three runs in seven innings and struck out 13.

Entering Friday, deGrom boasted a majors-leading 1.78 ERA, 251 Ks and 45 walks, and ranked No. 1 in various other categories.

"I think that it says a lot about who he is as a worker. I think it says a lot about who he is as a competitor," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "He tends to step it up when it matters the most, and this is probably mattering the most out of all his starts, and he continues to pitch just as dominant as he was before. That's the definition of a true ace."

DeGrom looked good from the outset, striking out leadoff hitter Victor Robles with a 98 mph fastball, then getting Bryce Harper to swing through a 99 mph offering to end the first inning. Harper missed a 93 mph slider to strike out again in the fourth, then grounded out on a chopper fielded by deGrom in the sixth.

Washington's only run off deGrom came on Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly on a ball hit to the warning track in deep center field in the second.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mets: Mesoraco hadn't played since leaving a game Sept. 3 because of a bulging disk in his back. He was 3 for 3 with a walk.

Nationals: OF Adam Eaton was out of the starting lineup for the fourth time in five games, because of what manager Dave Martinez said was a sore and stiff left knee, the one surgically repaired last season.

WE'RE GOING STREAKING!

Nationals 3B Rendon's second-inning walk extended his streak of reaching base safely to a career-best 29 games; he came around to score.

UP NEXT

RHP Corey Oswalt (3-2, 6.31 ERA) will start for the Mets on Saturday, while the Nationals wouldn't commit to a starting pitcher before Friday's game.

 

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Lobaton’s sacrifice fly lifts Mets past Nationals in 12

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USA TODAY Sports

Lobaton’s sacrifice fly lifts Mets past Nationals in 12

Jose Lobaton hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly against his former team in the 12th inning and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 5-4 on Thursday night.

Lobaton, who spent the previous four years in Washington before signing with the Mets in December, lofted a one-out fly ball off Jefry Rodriguez (3-3) with the bases loaded to score Amed Rosario.

Jacob Rhame (1-2) worked two scoreless innings, and Paul Sewald pitched the 12th for his second save.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was ejected in the 12th for arguing home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn’s called third strike.

Washington starter Max Scherzer pitched seven innings, allowing three runs while striking out 13. He has 290 strikeouts this year, the most for a National since the franchise relocated from Montreal before the 2005 season. Scherzer set the previous mark of 284 in 2016.

However, he never held a lead Thursday. Michael Conforto smashed a two-run homer to left in the third, his 27th of the season. It was also his fourth home run in 23 career at-bats against Scherzer.

Four pitches later, Jay Bruce crushed his ninth home run of the season. It was the sixth time this season New York has hit back-to-back homers.

Washington’s Trea Turner led off the sixth with an infield single. Two batters later, Anthony Rendon golfed Jason Vargas’ changeup to deep left for his 100th career home run to narrow the deficit to 3-2. Vargas allowed two runs and struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings.

Jeff McNeil led off the eighth with a triple and scored two batters later when Bruce punched a single to right past a drawn-in infield. But the Nationals responded with Rendon’s run-scoring groundout and Juan Soto’s RBI double off Robert Gsellman in the bottom half of the inning.

Mets manager Mickey Callaway was ejected in the 10th inning for arguing after Reyburn ruled McNeil had offered on a bunt attempt.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores will miss the rest of the season with soreness in both knees. Callaway said Flores has early onset arthritis in both knees and will receive injections to alleviate the pain. “It’s not like surgery is recommended at this time,” Callaway said. “I think rest and a couple injections is supposed to knock this out pretty good.”

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (8-9, 1.78 ERA), who is 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA lifetime at Nationals Park, gets the nod for New York as the four-game series continues.

Nationals: RHP Joe Ross (0-0, 3.60) makes his second start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.