Only two years removed from winning the World Series, the Washington Nationals are off to another rough start. Sitting at 30-35 with a -16 run differential, the team has already been engulfed in trade rumors.
Co-aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are both on the IL, while the offense has been abysmal. Despite this, Washington has recently found signs of life.
They have won four straight and are coming off a three-game sweep of the NL Central cellar-dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite winning six of their last ten, Washington has been unable to make up any ground in the division, due to the first place Mets winning seven of their last ten. In fact, the Nats have actually lost ground in the disappointing NL East.
But with the Mets coming to D.C. for a four-game series, Washington has the perfect opportunity to close the gap in the NL East. Most importantly for the Nats, neither Jacob deGrom nor Marcus Stroman will be on the mound for the Mets.
With the Mets two best pitcher’s not scheduled to start, Washington is facing a must-win series.
Washington’s starting rotation has finally turned a corner, posting a 1.19 ERA in their last 12 starts.
This is even more impressive when considering Max Scherzer only made two starts over that span (he left the second start after 12 pitches) and Strasburg has been on the IL the entire time. Joe Ross, Patrick Corbin, Erick Fedde, and the bullpen have all stepped up, but the offense has continued to let them down.
On the season, the offense ranks 14th in OBP (.316), 16th in OPS (.702), 19th in wRC+ (92), and 19th in SLG (.386). But the biggest problem is with runners in scoring position, particularly when the bases are loaded. This season, the Nats are 10-61 with the bases juiced, a major reason why the team has a losing record. Despite being able to get people on with ease, the team has lacked the ability to come through with the big hit when it matters.
Earlier in the week, Washington held the Giants to three runs across four games, but still found a way to split the series, being shut out twice. With the Mets in town, this cannot happen.
Of the four projected pitchers for New York, Taijuan Walker is the most accomplished. The veteran is having a career year with the Mets, going 6-2, with a 2.12 ERA, and a 2.76 FIP. In his last start against the Cubs, he struck out a career-high 12, while moving to 6-0 when pitching at home.
Joey Lucchesi (5.18 ERA) and David Peterson (5.60 ERA) are also projected to start, with Saturday night’s starter not yet announced. Peterson and Lucchesi have struggled as of late, presenting a perfect opportunity for the offense to finally find their grove.