Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nationals at Mets (4/30-5/3)

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Apr 26, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) bunts during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

 Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 5.01) vs. Jon Niese (2-1, 2.74), 7:10 PM ET, MASN

 In the battle of left-handers, these are two pitchers that are both coming off of rough outings in their last start, similar to Strasburg and deGrom.

For Gio Gonzalez, he has got himself into some big trouble in at least one inning every start. He was able to hold the Cardinals to no runs in one of those games, but allowed 12 players to reach base. While the Nats lefty wasn’t helped in his last start by a botched rundown, he allowed six runs from innings four thru six against the Marlins.

Thru the early stages of the season, Gonzalez’s command has been an issue as he has walked 11 batters in his first four starts. He only walked one against Miami last Sunday, but he managed to only induce eight ground ball outs, a season worst. Citi Field is a pitcher’s park, but he goes up against a New York offense that can put runs on the board despite their injuries.

Against the Mets in his career, Gio is 7-4 in 13 starts with a 3.13 ERA. Last season, New York hit him hard. He was 2-3 with a 4.08 ERA in five outings as he gave up 13 earned runs in 28.2 innings. Cuddyer is 6-for-14 against him with a home run, three RBi’s and five walks, but keep an eye on John Mayberry Jr. possibly getting a start against him (two home runs in 19 at-bats).

Jon Niese had three good starts in a row to start the season, giving up only one earned run in each. Against the Yankees last Sunday night, the lefty gave up six runs (four earned runs) on eight hits, struck out three, walked one, and gave up a home run to Alex Rodriguez.

Niese is a ground ball pitcher, but one of the things Nationals hitters need to do in this game is stay patient. Niese has 11 walks this season, including four in a start against the Braves back on April 21. If Washington can work the pitch count up, they can get into the middle relief of the Mets bullpen a lot quicker.

Against Washington, Niese is 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA in ten career starts. Last season, Washington beat him up to the tune of a 5.82 ERA (0-3) and scored 11 runs (three homers) in 17 innings. The player to watch in this game is third baseman Danny Espinosa. He is 7-for-18 against the Mets lefty with one home run and three RBI’s.

Advantage: I expect this game to be the one in this series that has the most runs scored. Gonzalez and Niese are pitchers who can be very good or very bad on any given start. Washington’s success against Niese gives the Nationals the edge and their first win of the series in a 8-5 kind of game.

Next: Sunday's Matchup