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Nationals try for four-game sweep of Mets

NEW YORK -- The worst-case scenario this weekend for the Washington Nationals was a lot better than the worst-case scenario for the New York Mets.

Now the Nationals have a chance to inflict that damage upon the Mets on Sunday when they play the finale of a four-game series at Citi Field.

Nationals right-hander Joe Ross (3-2, 6.39 ERA) will take the mound against Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (5-3, 4.33 ERA) as Washington looks to complete a four-game sweep of New York.

The Nationals won 7-4 on Saturday and have not trailed in the first three games of the series, during which they've outscored the Mets 22-9. But victory didn't seem assured until the last out Saturday, when New York had the tying or go-ahead run at the plate in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

"This (would have been) a big game for them to win today," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "God forbid, if they win tomorrow, then we leave here the same way we came in."

The Nationals began the four-game series 8 1/2 games ahead of the Mets in the National League East. With a win Sunday, Washington moves 12 1/2 games ahead of New York, matching the largest gap this season.

"Only consolation (of a split) would have been four games off the schedule," Baker said. "So hopefully we can push it back to where it was."

The Mets, meanwhile, are in danger of falling completely out of the playoff picture. The loss Saturday dropped New York further back in the wild card race (12 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers) than in the NL East.

"This isn't football, so we don't do pep talks every night," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "The one thing I try to tell these guys every day -- I had a talk with two of the veteran guys yesterday -- is they can't get down about the situation."

Collins and the Mets have to hope muscle memory kicks in soon. New York was below .500 as late as Aug. 20 last season before going 26-13 down the stretch to earn a wild card berth.

"We win tomorrow and get on the road (for a 10-game trip), try to win some games," Collins said. That's all you can do. This is the big leagues and (when) you play good teams, you better play well."

Ross didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start Tuesday, when he gave up five runs over 5 2/3 innings as the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 10-5. He was in line for the loss before the Nationals took the lead by scoring five runs in the sixth.

DeGrom authored his second career complete game Monday, when he scattered five hits as the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs, 6-1. The gem snapped a two-start slump in which deGrom allowed 15 runs over just eight innings.

Ross is 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA in four career starts against the Mets. DeGrom is 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in nine career turns against the Nationals.
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