It’s Saturday night in the Nation’s Capital, and the Washington Nationals are fighting for their NL Playoff lives. Last night, they dropped a tough 3-2 loss to the New York Mets while the team they are chasing, the Cincinnati Reds, were losing to the Colorado Rockies.
The Nationals remain 6.5 games behind the Reds for the final NL Wild Card spot. The fans and the team will be keeping tabs on what is happening in Denver where the Reds will be sending 0-2 Greg Reynolds to the mound against the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio, who sports a 8-6 record.
Meanwhile back in D.C., the Nationals will face the Mets’ Zack Wheeler (6-3, 3.42 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his last five road starts — all New York victories. He has also been the Mets’ best pitcher as of late, going 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA with 28 strikeouts over his last 25.2 innings.
The Mets rookie will likely to be on a a pitch count after he was limited to to 105 in his last start, meaning the Nationals need to go deep in counts and run his pitch totals up as early as possible.
As fate would have it, Washington has been one of the few opponents who have been able to get to Wheeler, tagging him for a season-worst five runs and six hits over 4.2 innings in a 13-2 win on June 30.
In that game, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth both homered off Wheeler, while Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a double. The Nationals will send Dan Haren (8-11, 4.66) to the mound to try and stop the Mets from winning their fourth in five games following a five-game skid.
Haren will be going after his fifth straight decision. He surrendered a four-run first inning before settling down and leaving after the seventh without a decision in Sunday’s 6-4 loss against the Kansas City Royals. He had gone 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in his previous five starts. In his last meeting with the Mets on July 27, he struck out six while yielding one run and three hits over seven innings in a 4-1 victory.
This is a key game for Washington; win, and they will be playing for another series win on Sunday. Lose, and it will be another opportunity lost as they try to stay in the playoff race.