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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Three games in Queens against the New York Mets

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After a day off, the Washington Nationals are back in action this weekend against the New York Mets...

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With a relatively successful homestand in the books, the Washington Nationals head back on the road for five games, starting off with a trip to Citi Field to take on the New York Mets.

Along with the Nationals, the Mets have also been struggling on offense so far this season.

Entering Friday’s slate of games, the Nationals and Mets had scored the fewest runs in the major leagues, with 55 and 44 runs respectively, and are also two of the bottom three in runs per game with the Nats at 3.44 runs per game and the Mets at 3.21 runs per game.

Now that we’ve pointed out the ineffectiveness of both teams’ lineups so far this season, expect Murphy’s Law to strike and with both teams reaching double-figures in every game this series.

Here’s the lowdown from Queens ahead of the three-game weekend set...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, April 23rd, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday 24th, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN and FS1, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Sunday, April 25th, 1:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Erick Fedde (1-1, 5.56 ERA) vs Jacob deGrom (1-1, 0.45 ERA)
  • Game Two: Joe Ross (1-1, 5.87 ERA) vs Marcus Stroman (3-0, 0.90 ERA)
  • Game Three: Patrick Corbin (0-2, 10.95 ERA) vs Taijuan Walker (0-1, 3.21 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Erick Fedde: After his first start of the season, it didn’t look like Fedde’s stay in the rotation would last long once the rotation got its reinforcements back from the COVID IL. However, in his last two starts, he’s shown promise that might be worth keeping around.

Against the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, Fedde delivered a combined 9.2 innings of two-run ball on seven hits with 14 strikeouts and three walks. While his pitch counts prevented him from going deeper, he’s displayed better swing-and-miss stuff in those two starts, which will be key for him in his start against the Mets on Friday.

Marcus Stroman: The cop-out here would be to talk about Jacob deGrom somehow looking even better to start the 2021 season. However, his rotation mate in Stroman has also been in dazzling form to start the new season and may have flown a little under the radar.

Through his first three starts of the season, Storman has an exceptional 0.90 ERA, allowing just a pair of runs in 20 innings, striking out 11, and walking three batters.

Some of Stroman’s expected stats on Statcast would seem to imply there’s regression coming. That said, as a pitcher who pitches to contact and does so successfully, Stroman has usually outperformed those expected stats in his career, so the regression may not be drastic.

Who’s not?

Kyle Schwarber: Even though Schwarber might have the most memorable moment of the season so far with his towering walk-off home run against the Diamondbacks, it’s not been a particularly smooth go of things for the team’s new left fielder in recent games.

Since that home run, Schwarber is just 3-for-18 with just one extra-base hit and eight strikeouts. That leaves his slash line on the season at a disappointing .200/.238/.350 mark.

So far this season, Schwarber has actually hit lefties better than righties. Expect that to change as the season goes on, and with a right-hander-heavy Mets pitching staff, this weekend perhaps presents a perfect chance for him to rebound in a big way.

Michael Conforto: It says a lot about the start to the season that Conforto is having that the most notable thing he’s done so far was probably the dubious walk-off HBP against the Miami Marlins.

So far this season, Conforto is slashing just .178/.315/.244 without a home run while striking out 13 times and walking just five. His struggles have led to him being dropped from third in the order where he started the season down to fifth and sixth until he can get right.

According to Statcast, Conforto has particularly struggled against fastballs, a pitch he has historically feasted on, swinging and missing on 32.7% of them. It’s too early to say whether this is a trend or just a sluggish start, but look for the Nationals to attack him with heaters.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Mets storylines from our friends at Amazin’ Avenue...

One more thing to watch

There’s only one story to focus on here.

In a shock announcement on Tuesday, the Nationals placed star outfielder Juan Soto on the 10-Day IL with a strained left shoulder, less than an hour before first pitch against the Cardinals.

“A couple days ago he started complaining about his triceps a little bit, just that he was sore,” Martinez told reporters on Tuesday. “He said it again, and [team trainer Paul Lessard] decided that the right thing to do was have him go get an MRI and make sure there’s nothing really wrong with him.

“So we did that, and it showed a slight strain in the shoulder. So for me and [GM Mike Rizzo], it was a no-brainer to put him on the IL to get him right and get him ready when he’s ready.”

On a team struggling badly for offense in the early part of this season, it’s going to be a grind to be without one of the best hitters in the majors in their lineup for at least 10 days.

“It’s huge,” Martinez explained. “He’s a huge part of our lineup, but you know, we put [Andrew Stevenson] in there today and he led off and he did really well.

“I talked to the boys after the game, and I said, ‘Hey, we got to keep battling every day. It’s going to be a battle every day. That’s why we play 162 games, so keep fighting every day. At the end of this we’re going to be okay, we’re going to come out on top.’”

It looks like Stevenson will probably get the bulk of the time in right field to begin with after impressing his skipper over the last year and a half as the team’s fourth outfielder, though Martinez also noted that we might see Yadiel Hernández get a few starts here and there too.

Perhaps the Nationals are somewhat fortunate that Soto’s injury comes at a time when the Nats’ schedule is littered with off-days, so they may not miss him for too many games.

Even so, facing the Mets’ three best pitchers without their star man is going to be a challenge.