So going on the road for real is what the Washington Nationals’ lineup needed to get going?
The old 70’s jingle, “I Love New York,” came to mind when watching the Nats circle the bases like a conga line in the fifth inning of Monday night’s 16-4 romp over the Mets. It seems the best prescription for an ailing Nats’ lineup was to be a visit to Citi Field and Steven Matz.
Most of the beatings the Nats have delivered to Matz have come at Citi Field, where the lefty is now 0-5 against the Nats in eight starts, but none was worse than the eight runs on eight hits in 4 1⁄3 innings they tagged on him Monday.
Matz was clearly irritated in the second inning as Juan Soto shuffled and smiled while trying to break the pitcher’s rhythm, and he got ahead of Soto and retired him on weak contact. Matz might have won that battle, but an inning later, with three Nats’ runs on the board, he had already been beaten.
Soto didn’t even get a chance to shuffle before Matz hung a curveball that Soto crushed for the longest homer of his career at 463 feet.
When the ball soared over the Big Apple sculpture that notably wasn’t rising at Citi Field on Monday night, the rout was on.
“I saw where it landed right when I hit it,” Soto said. “I wanted to see if I got it in the apple.”
Two innings later, Soto delivered the knockout blow for Matz when he belted another breaking ball almost to the wall in center field for an RBI ground-rule double, before a Nationals hit parade greeted Paul Sewald and Chasen Shreve.
The totals: 16 runs on 17 hits. That’s more runs than the Nats have scored this month, and as many hits as in the previous three games.
It’s not surprising that the Nats got to Matz early and often. They’ve knocked him around his entire career. He’s 1-6 in 13 starts against the Nats, putting runners on base at every opportunity, with 73 hits and 23 walks in 69 innings. Washington’s 10 homers against him going into Monday were tied for the most by any team, and the Nats made sure to move clearly into the lead with three deep shots from three guys who love hitting against him. Asdrubal Cabrera (2 for-4 with a double in his career vs. Matz), Trea Turner (8-for-27) and Soto (6-for-13) all took him deep for the first time in each of their careers.
Nats’ hitters also love hitting at Citi Field, trying to put the ball up in the jet stream as the planes soar overhead toward LaGuardia airport. Soto went into Monday’s game 22-for-61 with four homers at Citi, a .361/.451/.639 pace. Cabrera went into the game with 31 homers in 202 career at-bats there, although many of those came as a member of the Mets. By game’s end, he was 7-for-11 against the Mets this season, including his second homer of the game, on a one-handed swing in the seventh.
“I feel like I hit the ball on the barrel, and I like to hit in this ballpark. I feel really good at the plate,” Cabrera said. “Got a little lucky on that swing too.”
Even Yan Gomes, who collected his first hits of the season in a 2-for-3 performance, would predictably break out in the Mets’ back yard, where he’s hit .316/.435/.368 for his career.
The Nats haven’t dominated the Mets in division play since they were winning back-to-back division titles in 2016 and 2017 under Dusty Baker. But Citi Field is as good a place as any to break out an offensive slump,