Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats Vs. Mets (9/7-9/9)

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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

 Jon Niese (8-10, 4.17 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (11-11, 2.89) – 1:05 PM ET, broadcast on MASN2

From a stretch of starts spanning from June 5-August 15 (13 starts), Jon Niese had only given up more than three runs in a game once. In his last three starts, Niese has struggled mightily, which puts a lot of pressure on him to get the series started for the Mets on the right note. During those three games, he has given up 18 runs in 16.1 innings to the Rockies and Phillies.

In his last outing against the Phillies on September 1, Niese went five innings, gave up six runs on seven hits, struck out two, and walked two. In his only start against the Nationals this year, Niese went seven innings, gave up one run on nine hits, struck out five, and walked one in a 1-0 loss (May 2).

The 28-year-old left-hander is 3-4 in 11 career starts against the Nationals with a 3.19 ERA with seven of those starts occurring at Nats Park (2-2, 3.19). However, he has not won a game at Nats Park since 2012. Wilson Ramos is 6-for-14 against Niese with a home run and three RBI’s.

For Max Scherzer, this is the kind of game that the Nationals paid him the big bucks for. He pitched better in his last start against the Cardinals on September 2, but he did give up a season-high 11 hits. That being said, Scherzer only gave up two runs over six innings, striking out ten batters, and walking one.

While Scherzer is pitching better, he still has not won a game in his last six starts. Since the All-Star Break, he is 1-4 in his last nine starts with a 4.85 ERA. He hasn’t walked a batter in two of his last three outings, but can he keep the Mets’ hitters from hitting the long ball? New York has 69 home runs since the break, which is second in the NL (Nats are fourth with 62).

In two starts this season against the Mets, Scherzer has been excellent, but he has yet to come up with a win. He is 0-2 with a 0.61 ERA in those two games and has held New York to a .170 batting average, but both of those outings came in the first half of the year. Curtis Granderson is 5-for-16 with a double, a home run, two RBI’s, and five walks.

Advantage: With the Nats winners of five in a row, this is the game that they have to get when you consider Tyler Clippard might not be available in the Mets’ bullpen for this one (41 pitches yesterday). Niese has thrown the second fewest innings of any pitcher in the rotation, so that could be a factor as well. While Scherzer hasn’t won in a while, he is one of those pitchers you can’t count out in a big game. If he can get into an early rhythm, I like his chances to get back on track and for the Nats to get their sixth straight win.

Next: Tomorrow's Matchup