MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves

Nationals series preview April 21-23

As they wrap up the third week of a young but already very eventful season, New York welcomes the first-place Washington Nationals to town for a three-game set with both teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. Decimated by a rash of injuries and coming off of two straight series losses at the hands of Miami and Philadelphia, the Mets find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to piece together a healthy lineup against a club that has won four straight and is expecting young shortstop Trea Turner back from a hamstring injury just in time for first pitch on Friday night.

Although it’s only April, the Mets’ head-to-head matchups against Washington went a long way in deciding the NL East title in 2016, with the club finishing eight games behind the Nats thanks in no small part to a 7-12 record in the season series. If they want to avoid the uncertainty of another wild card game on their quest to the promised land, New York needs to set the tone against Dusty Baker’s squad early on.

When and Where

Game 1:  Friday @ 7:10 p.m (TV: PIX-11, MLB Network  RADIO: 710 WOR)

Game 2:  Saturday @ 4:05 p.m. (TV: SNY, FS1  RADIO: 710 WOR)

Game 3:  Sunday @ 8:00 p.m. (TV: ESPN  RADIO: 710 WOR)

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday:  RHP Tanner Roark (2-0, 3.50 ERA, 3.72 DRA, .218 TAv, 0.3 WARP) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.45 ERA, 3.08 DRA, .230 TAv, 0.4 WARP)

Saturday: LHP Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.33 ERA, 5.32 DRA, .240 TAv, -0.1 WARP) vs. RHP Jacob deGrom (0-0, 1.89 ERA, 0.87 DRA, .185 TAv, 0.9 WARP)

Sunday: RHP Max Scherzer (2-1, 1.37 ERA, 0.83 DRA, .187 TAv, 0.9 WARP) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (1-1, 5.52 ERA, 6.24 DRA, .265 TAv, -0.2 WARP)

Who’s Hot?

Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.389 AVG, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 0.8 WARP; 7-for-12 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in three-game sweep of Atlanta)

Nationals RF Bryce Harper (.400 AVG, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 1.7 WARP; 7-for-10 with 3 doubles, 2 home runs and 5 RBI in Atlanta)

Mets OF Jay Bruce (.293 AVG, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 0.9 WARP; 4-for-10 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI vs. Phillies)

Who’s Not?

Mets 3B Jose Reyes (.105 AVG, 6-for-57, 4 runs scored, -0.6 WARP)

Mets defense (7 errors in 3 games against Philadelphia, resulting in 4 unearned runs)

When We Last Met

The division rivals last faced off on September 12-14, with the Nationals taking two out of three in the nation’s capital.

Bumps and Bruises

Nationals: SS Trea Turner (right hamstring strain) will be activated from the 10-day disabled list at some point over the weekend, possibly before Friday night’s game.  2B Daniel Murphy (right leg tightness) did not play on Thursday in Atlanta but is expected to be in the lineup for the series opener against his former club.  OF Jayson Werth (groin) has not played since leaving Wednesday’s contest in the third inning after injuring himself on a check swing.

Mets: OF Yoenis Cespedes (left hamstring) left Thursday’s game early.  While team doctors told the Cuban slugger that he should only miss 2-3 days, an MRI scheduled for Friday may help to nail down a clearer timeline. 1B Lucas Duda (hyperextended left elbow) and IF Wilmer Flores (knee infection) are both out for at least Friday’s game and possibly the series.  C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist) appeared in Thursday night’s game as a pinch-hitter but it is still unclear if he will don the catcher’s gear against Washington.  Backup backstop Kevin Plawecki was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, and IF/OF T.J. Rivera is currently in New York on standby in case the Mets have to place someone on the disabled list.  deGrom was initially scheduled to start on Friday but was pushed back a day due to a stiff neck.

Notable Quotables

“I had this type of injury before.  This time it doesn’t feel as serious as the other times.” – Cespedes, through a translator, following Thursday’s 6-4 loss

“Our trainer’s room is starting to fill up again and we don’t need that” – Mets manager Terry Collins on the team’s injury woes

“I’m feeling good. I think I got a little bit excited. Happy to be back. Other than that I feel a hundred percent, my body and mentally too.” – Jeurys Familia about returning to action on Thursday; The Mets closer served a 15-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, stemming from an incident that took place in October in his New Jersey home.

“We know what we’re up against. We know they’ve got a good team. We’ve just got to pull it together.” – Collins on facing the Nationals

“It’s something that I haven’t really done since high school, and I don’t really remember a whole lot about high school, so it’s going to be a learn as I go type of thing.” – Bruce on playing first base Thursday night for just the fourth time in his big league career

Photo credit: Jason Getz – USA Today Sports

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