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Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets Series Preview: Depleted Nats continue to fight

The Washington Nationals are six and a half games back in the NL Wild Card race and two of their best hitters were traded away this week. Is a series win against Philadelphia what they needed?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (64-64) vs. Mets (56-71) series info:

Game 1: Friday, Aug. 24 at 7:10 p.m. ET (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, Aug. 25 at 4:05 p.m. ET (MASN2/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, Aug. 26 at 1:10 p.m. ET (MASN/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Gio Gonzalez (7-10, 4.51 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (3-8, 7.67)

Wednesday: Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.05) vs. Zack Wheeler (8-6, 3.63)

Thursday: Jefry Rodriguez (1-1, 5.46) vs. Steven Matz (5-10, 4.55)

What to watch for:

Zim can’t stop hitting

Fire sale or not, the Nationals still have a few hitters who can change the outcome of a game in any given at-bat. One of those hitters is Ryan Zimmerman, who’s hitting .342 with a staggering .740 slugging percentage over his last 21 games.

Following the departure of Matt Adams, Zimmerman should figure to play on an everyday basis for the rest of the season. Even though this will be a lost season for Zimmerman in terms of number of games, he still has a shot at hitting 15-20 home runs if he keeps this pace up.

Roark has become a steady hand in the rotation

Before a lengthy rain delay cut his previous start short, Tanner Roark had tossed five consecutive quality starts. In fact, since the All-Star Break the Nats’ right-hander boasts a 1.63 ERA with 29 strikeouts to only five walks.

It’ll be important for Roark to continue pitching well, as he could be a candidate for the Nationals to consider non-tendering over the offseason if he doesn’t. Roark only has one year left of control beyond this season and could be replaced by a new arm from the free-agent market if the Nationals decide he isn’t worth the $6.5 million+ he’d be earning in arbitration.

Wheeler boosting his value

Another pitcher enjoying a strong second half is the one Roark will be facing Saturday afternoon. Zack Wheeler has a 1.38 ERA since the break and is finally rewarding the Mets for sticking with him through all his injuries.

Wheeler, like Roark, only has one year left before he becomes a free agent. It’s not yet clear whether the Mets intend to contend in 2019, but if they don’t Wheeler will be an attractive player on the trade market this winter.

Series history:

The Nationals lead the all-time series (2005-present) by a margin of 136-116, including a .612 winning percentage in Queens. Washington and New York have split the 12 games played between the two clubs this season.