Washington Nationals Reaction: First battles between Nats, Mets signal long race ahead
By Pablo Roa
With yesterday’s loss, the Washington Nationals have split their first six games against the New York Mets this season. Both teams have played well in 2016, and their first two encounters suggest a long race ahead.
With nearly a quarter of the 2016 season in the books, the race for the NL East is starting to look like many expected it would.
The Washington Nationals hold a slim, half-game lead over the second-place Mets. Behind New York sit the Phillies and Marlins, both of who are also within three games of the Nationals. The Braves, who own the worst record in the National League, are far behind in last place.
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If all goes as expected — and there are no guarantees that it will — then the Phillies and Marlins should soon trail off and join the Braves in the cellar of the division. If that happens, then the battle for the NL East title will be a two-team race between the Nationals and the Mets.
And if their first two encounters this season are any indication, then the battle between the two teams will likely go down to the wire.
The Nationals and Mets — the winners of the 2014 and 2015 NL East titles — have split their first two series this season; the Nationals took two out of three from New York on the road, and the Mets earned the series win yesterday afternoon in Washington.
The star of yesterday’s game was Mets left-hander Steven Matz, who pitched eight shutout innings while striking out seven batters and walking just one. Matz was brilliant all day long and led his team to a 2-0 victory in the rubber game of the series.
Matz, along with Noah Syndergaard, are the two starters in the Mets’ talented rotation whom the Nationals have not been able to figure out this season. Matz had the upper hand over the Nationals yesterday, and Syndergaard dominated Washington with 10 strikeouts on May 17.
Similarly, the Mets have been unable to solve Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg, who is 2-0 against New York with 21 strikeouts this season. Strasburg’s most recent win over the Mets was in the second game of this week’s series, when he struck out 11 batters en route to his eighth win of the season.
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Both of these teams rely on their rotations to win, and both have taken advantage of their stellar rotations in the six games they have played against each other so far in 2016. The Nationals and Mets are an even 3-3 in head to head matches thus far, but they will play each other 13 more times this season.
And if the first two encounters between these clubs are any indication, it’ll be a long and heated race for the NL East crown in 2016.