In the last stop on their six-game tour through the NL East, the Washington Nationals (9-6) will play the New York Mets (7-7) at Citi Field with a marquee pitching matchup in the series opener.
The Mets are currently third in the NL East, and have won three of their five series. Their offense has been hot to start the season, with the third-highest team batting average in the MLB (.269), the fifth-highest on-base percentage (.344) and the sixth-highest slugging percentage (.443). They have hit 17 home runs on the season, and by failing to hit one out of the park in the second game of their double-header against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, they ended their franchise-best streak of 12 consecutive games with a home run.
The Nationals are 70-75 overall against the Mets, and won 14 of 18 matchups in 2012.
Cy Young Preview?
Two pitchers who are already being mentioned in the 2013 Cy Young conversation will face off in a rubber match on Friday night: Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey.
Harvey, who posted a 2.73 ERA with 70 strikeouts through 10 starts as a rookie in 2012, has had a great start to his 2013 campaign. In three starts this season, he has a nearly nonexistent 0.82 ERA, and has given up only six hits with 25 strikeouts.
Strasburg and Harvey are similar types of pitchers, which should make Friday’s game especially exciting to watch. The two flamethrowers lead the majors in average fastball velocity so far this season, with Strasburg in first at 95.7 mph, and Harvey in third at 94.2 mph.
Last September was the only time the Nationals’ hitters have faced Harvey in a 2-0 loss. They managed to score one run on five hits against him, but Harvey struck out 10 hitters in his dominating start.
The Nats and the Mets are having similar defensive struggles, considering two of the teams’ most reliable players in the field have been inconsistent lately.
Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has committed six errors in 14 games, though he committed only 12 in each of the last two seasons. Similarly, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a 2009 Gold Glove winner, has committed four errors in 15 games.
However, neither team is ready to hit the panic button for their infielders.
Mets manager Terry Collins is encouraging Tejada to stay aggressive, while Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo thinks Zimmerman just needs to readjust to his throwing mechanics after having shoulder surgery in the offseason.
One MLB scout said Zimmerman has “The Thing,” according to The Washington Post, and thinks his issues are mental rather than a sign of the health of his arm. Zimmerman and Tejada both will have the opportunity to try to overcome The Thing during series in New York, and hopefully as the season continues to progress Zim will regain confidence in his capability to make the superb plays we have seen him complete in his last eight years in Washington.
Danny Espinosa is not in the lineup for Friday’s game, which will be the fourth game he has missed because of bruising in his forearm from being hit by a pitch last weekend against the Braves.
Zimmerman will sit out the first game of the series with a sore hamstring.
In The Zone
Kurt Suzuki is still swinging a hot bat. He went 2-for-3 with a home run in Wednesday’s win over the Miami Marlins.
David Wright (3B) .450 AVG, .542 OBP, .900 SLG, 2 HR, 10 RBI (last five games)
Daniel Murphy (2B) .429 AVG, .435 OBP, .619 SLG, 4 2B, 5 RBI (last five games)
John Buck (C) .167 AVG, .167 OBP, .333 SLG, 1 HR, (last five games)
Ike Davis (1B) .176 AVG, .300 OBP, .176 SLG, 0 HR (last five games)
4/19, Stephen Strasburg (1-2, 2.95 ERA, .233 BAA, 15 SO) vs. Matt Harvey (3-0, 0.82 ERA, .088 BAA, 25 SO)
4/20, Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 4.50 ERA, .224 BAA, 15 SO) vs. Jeremy Hefner (0-2, 7.20 ERA, .310 BAA, 6 SO)
4/21, Jordan Zimmermann (3-0, 2.45 ERA, .256 BAA, 11 SO) vs. Dillon Gee (0-3, 8.36 ERA, .333 BAA, 8 SO)