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Washington Nationals Series Preview: New York Mets come to town for Labor Day series

Oh, the Nationals got swept again? Well that sucks. Anyway, next up is the Mets for a five-game wrap-around series...

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Well, at least the Washington Nationals won’t see the Philadelphia Phillies again until 2022.

It was another sweep for Joe Girardi’s men who made it eight straight wins over the rebuilding Nats that has given them a 13-6 record on the year, winning the season series for the first time in a 162-game season since 2014.

The Nationals had a golden opportunity to avoid a sweep when they ran out to a 6-0 lead through five innings in the finale. However, the bullpen and some sub-par fielding let the lead slip and the Phillies squeezed out a 7-6 win on Thursday.

Next, Washington wraps up another season series with a rare five-game long weekend series against the New York Mets that goes through until a day game series finale on Monday.

There probably hasn’t been a team more in the news over the past week than the Mets.

First, the players started giving their fans the thumbs down in an effort to boo them when they succeed because of all the booing the fans had given the players. That led to a statement from team president Sandy Alderson and the players apologizing on Tuesday.

Then their acting General Manager, Zack Scott, was arrested for alleged DUI and placed on administrative leave on Thursday.

I think it’s fair to say that the Mets have definitely had better weeks.

Here’s the lowdown from Nationals Park ahead of the five-game series against the Mets...

The schedule

  • Game One: Friday, September 3rd, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Saturday, September 4th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Saturday, September 4th, 6:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Four: Sunday, September 5th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Five: Monday, September 6th, 1:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Pitching matchups

  • Game One: Sean Nolin (0-2, 6.57 ERA) vs Rich Hill (6-6, 4.11 ERA)
  • Game Two: Erick Fedde (6-9, 5.08 ERA) vs Marcus Stroman (9-12, 2.85 ERA)
  • Game Three: TBD (0-0, -.-- ERA) vs Tylor Megill (2-3, 4.04 ERA)
  • Game Four: Josiah Gray (0-2, 4.73 ERA) vs Taijuan Walker (7-9, 3.89 ERA)
  • Game Five: Patrick Corbin (7-14, 6.26 ERA) vs Trevor Williams (4-2, 4.27 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Josh Bell: For all of the attention that Juan Soto gets for the Nationals, not only is it seemingly helping Bell at the plate, it also means his recent offensive run going under the radar.

After going 2-for-5 in the series finale against the Phillies, Bell is now on a nine-game hitting streak and has hits in 14 of his last 15 games. In fact, the only one of those games he doesn’t have a hit in was when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter against Josh Hader in Milwaukee.

In those 15 games, Bell is slashing .339/.422/.607 with four home runs, 13 RBIs, and more walks than strikeouts, walking eight times and striking out just five.

With Soto still walking a ton since the trade deadline, Bell’s production has helped keep the lineup ticking over despite no longer having the players who were dealt away, and he’ll be hoping to finish the year strong to keep pushing his overall stats on the season up.

Trevor Williams: Picked up alongside noted thumbs-down-person, Javier Báez, right-hander Williams has been a solid addition for the Mets to this point.

Despite spending a short time down in Triple-A with the Syracuse Mets, the right-hander has performed when he’s had a chance with his new big league team.

In 13.0 innings between two starts and two relief appearances, Williams has allowed just one earned run, scored by the Nationals in mid-August, on eight hits and four walks while striking out eight batters, giving him an impressive 0.69 ERA and 2.93 FIP in that span.

With the Mets playing catch-up on games, Williams gets another turn in what is temporarily a six-man rotation and is set to start the series finale on Monday against Patrick Corbin.

Who’s not?

Luis García: Oh nice, I may have managed to once again curse a player by writing about them.

On August 9th, I wrote an article about how García had managed to tap into more power, not just in the majors, but put it on full display in the minor leagues before his promotion.

What’s happened since then? Well, García has slashed .222/.273/.292 with just five doubles in 20 games. The power has mostly evaporated, as has some of the increased plate discipline he’d been displaying, leading him to often now hit eighth in the lineup.

In the series finale against the Phillies, where the youngster went 0-for-3 with a walk, his performance at the plate wasn’t the only concern. His defense came under scrutiny as he seemingly misplayed two grounders, one of which could’ve been an inning-ending double play that would’ve kept the Nationals in the lead heading into the ninth inning.

After some initial promise following the trade deadline, García has come back to earth with a thud. He’ll still get the chance to prove himself the rest of the way, but his struggles are mounting.

Francisco Lindor: It’s definitely not been the debut season in Queens that Lindor had been hoping for after signing a mammoth $341 million, 10-year deal this offseason.

While his elite play in the field has carried over, he’s not been anywhere near the standard he would expect of himself at the plate. To make things worse, he also spent time on the Injured List earlier this summer with an oblique strain that caused him to miss just over a month.

He’s been even worse since the injury though. Since returning from the IL, the star shortstop is slashing just .172/.172/.310 in 29 at-bats with three extra-base hits, six strikeouts, and no walks.

The Mets have beaten up on some bad teams lately, including the Nats, which has helped them inch their way back to contention. But if they want to keep rolling when their schedule toughens up late in September, they need Lindor to heat up at the plate.

From the opposing dugout

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One more thing to watch

Aloha, Mr. Hand — I still don’t understand that reference (sorry, Patrick). Anyway, Brad Hand will return to Nationals Park as a visitor for the second time in a few weeks this weekend.

After his trade from the Nationals to the Toronto Blue Jays, Hand struggled mightily to the tune of a 7.27 ERA and 7.54 FIP over 8.2 innings in 11 appearances, striking out just five, walking three, and allowing three home runs.

That included an outing against the Nationals where he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning where Josh Bell and Carter Kieboom both launched balls over the fence.

Hand’s performance led to him being designated for assignment during the week and the Mets ended up claiming the left-hander on waivers on Thursday ahead of this series at Nationals Park.

The Mets obviously still like what they see to some extent in Hand. They thought they were close to an agreement with the reliever in the offseason, however, a few days later, he ended up joining the Nationals instead and had his so-so season before the trade.

Meanwhile, the player the Nationals acquired for hand, Riley Adams, continues to make a strong impression on his new ballclub with a .341/.442/.568 slash line in 52 plate appearances.

With Keibert Ruiz now up in the major leagues, he’s taken over as a near-everyday starter behind the plate, bumping Adams to backup and pinch-hitting duties, though that’s more an indicator of how the Nats view Ruiz as opposed to how Adams has performed so far.

With a rare five-game series this weekend, maybe we will see the Hand-Adams matchup we were denied against the Blue Jays when they pulled the left-hander just before facing the catcher.