A four-game series between a pair of National League East rivals began Monday night with the New York Mets looking to end a disheartening slump. It will end Thursday with the visiting Washington Nationals attempting to do the same.
The Nationals will look to avoid a sweep Thursday afternoon when right-hander Stephen Strasburg (4-3, 3.32 ERA) takes the mound against Mets left-hander Steven Matz (3-3, 3.96 ERA).
The Nationals' bullpen frittered away another game Wednesday night, when the Mets scored six runs in the eighth inning of a 6-1 victory. Juan Lagares laced the go-ahead three-run double two batters before Rajai Davis hit a three-run pinch-hit homer in his first plate appearance for New York.
The loss raised the Nationals' major-league-worst bullpen ERA to 6.89 and increased the stakes surrounding Thursday's game. Washington (19-30), which is 11 games under .500 for the first time since September 2011, is nine games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East.
"I hate to say a sense of urgency, but I think this is the third week in May and we're down three in the series," said Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton, whose solo homer in the first inning accounted for Washington's only run Wednesday night. "We've got to put a good game (Thursday) and have a nice trip home, a happy trip home, and start the next series. It's got to happen soon."
If not, the seat for Nationals manager Dave Martinez is likely to grow even hotter -- just as Mets manager Mickey Callaway's seat grew red-hot on Sunday, when the Miami Marlins completed a three-game sweep of New York. The Marlins hadn't swept anyone since the 2017 season.
Hours after first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen gave Callaway a public vote of confidence Monday afternoon, the Mets scored two first-inning runs on their way to a 5-3 win. New York mounted three comebacks Tuesday night before Wednesday night's dramatics.
"When you win, you have a different air about you, a different confidence," Callaway said Wednesday night. "And I'm definitely feeling that part of it."
The Mets are looking to complete their first four-game sweep of the Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise since July 1-4, 1991, in Montreal. New York last authored a four-game home sweep of the Nationals/Expos from May 15-18, 1972.
Strasburg earned the win in the Nationals' most recent victory last Saturday, when he allowed two runs (one earned) over eight innings in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs. The eight innings pitched tied a season high for Strasburg, who has pitched at least six innings in nine of his 10 starts this year.
Matz returned from the injured list last Saturday, when he took the loss after giving up two runs over 3 2/3 innings as the Mets fell 2-0 to the Marlins. He missed his previous two weeks due to radial nerve discomfort in his left forearm.
Strasburg is 9-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 19 career starts against the Mets. Matz is 1-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 11 starts against the Nationals.
--Field Level Media
A pair of aces meet when Nationals face Mets
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