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Scherzer, deGrom to duel in Nationals-Mets matchup

NEW YORK -- Two of the National League's best pitchers will square off Sunday afternoon when the New York Mets host the Washington Nationals in the finale of a three-game series at Citi Field.

If all goes according to plan for Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, Sunday will also be the game in which he takes another step closer toward matching the ace standards set by Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer.

DeGrom (15-9, 3.55 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Scherzer (15-6, 2.59) in a rare matchup of true No. 1 pitchers. Both teams will be looking for a series win after the Nationals snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday night with a 4-3, 10-inning victory.

Scherzer (253) and deGrom (228) entered Saturday ranked 1-2 in the NL in strikeouts and were in the top 10 in wins, ERA and innings pitched.

"They're two of the best in the game," Mets manager Terry Collins said of deGrom and Scherzer. "If you're a baseball fan, those are games you want to see. And I'm going to get to see it, so I'm excited about it."

Scherzer continued to cement himself as one of the best pitchers of his era in his most recent start on Tuesday, when he not only picked up the win by allowing two runs in seven innings in the Nationals' 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves but also struck out seven to reach 250 strikeouts for the fourth straight season.

Scherzer is the fourth pitcher with 250 strikeouts in four straight seasons. His predecessors? Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

"You have to be durable to accomplish that," Scherzer told reporters afterward. "I have been durable and going out there, making 30-plus starts every year. That is how you achieve something like that."

When Scherzer takes the mound Sunday, he will reach 30 starts for the ninth straight season -- a streak exceeded only by Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who has made at least 30 starts in 10 straight seasons.

Scherzer is 8 2/3 innings shy of reaching 200 innings for the fifth straight year. DeGrom reached 30 starts for the second time in his most recent outing Sept. 16, when he picked up the win after allowing one run in seven innings in the Mets' 7-3 win over the Braves, is 4 2/3 innings away from reaching 200 for the first time.

DeGrom has had his eye on 200 innings since spring training.

"That's a big thing," deGrom said following a win over the Miami Marlins on Aug 20. "That was kind of a goal coming into the year."

DeGrom was initially scheduled to start Friday's series opener but was pushed back two days due to a stomach illness. He is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 11 career starts against the Nationals. Scherzer is 7-4 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 career appearances (13 starts) against the Mets, whom he no-hit on Oct. 3, 2015.

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