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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nine-game road trip begins against New York Mets

On the back of a series win, the Nationals head to Citi Field to take on the Mets for the first time since they booed their home fans...

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals finally won a series again! The Colorado Rockies now account for 22% of the wins the Nationals have had this season, read into that however you wish.

It was the first time the Nats had managed to win a series since they took two of three from the San Francisco Giants in a set that straddled April and May, so will be the only series they win in May that was entirely this month. Sub-optimal.

Anyway, for the Nationals the key to the series victory was scoring 28 runs on 40 hits across the four games, finally managing to give their inconsistent rotation some run support, especially Patrick Corbin who finally recorded his first win of the season on the mound.

Next for the Nationals is their first trip to Citi Field of the season where they take on the New York Mets.

The last time these two teams faced off, the Mets took two of three from Washington at Nationals Park. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but the Nationals scored eight runs in one game, then three combined in the other two games. A familiar story, really.

You also may remember the last time the Nationals played at Citi Field, it was while their hosts were going full Mets with another controversy.

The Mets players were spotted booing their home crowd while they were spiraling out of contention, before missing the playoffs.

There’s only one thing we’re rooting for though. If the Nationals win the first game of the series, they will move to 19-31 and we can all wistfully look back on the 2019 run again.

Here’s the lowdown from Citi Field ahead of the three-game series...

The schedule

  • Game One: Monday, May 30th, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Tuesday, May 31st, 7:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Wednesday, June 1st, 1:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Erick Fedde (3-3, 3.55 ERA) vs David Peterson (2-0, 2.16 ERA)
  • Game Two: Patrick Corbin (1-7, 6.30 ERA) vs Trevor Williams (0-3, 4.37 ERA)
  • Game Three: TBD (0-0, -.-- ERA) vs Carlos Carrasco (5-1, 3.98 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Nelson Cruz: I’ve been holding off on putting Cruz here recently because every time he had a big game, he seemed to find a way to go 0-for the very next game and held himself back.

Now though, he’s starting to string more solid performances together and look like the hitter the Nats hoped for when they handed him $15 million guaranteed this offseason.

So far in May, Cruz is slashing a strong .321/.376/.464 with a pair of home runs, six doubles, and 16 RBIs. Five of those doubles have come in his last seven games, during which he has a dominant .423/.483/.615 slash line.

Cruz finally appears to be turning it around at the plate, and the offense has boomed as a result.

Luis Guillorme: As regular readers of this section know, I like to make sure to weigh up entire slash lines when picking players, not just zeroing in on batting average. In Guillorme’s case though, there’s no other place to start than with his absurd recent batting average.

In his last 11 appearances, the utility man has a quite frankly ridiculous .517 batting average, going 15-for-29 in that stretch — though it’s not a hitting streak because of a pinch-hitting appearance on Tuesday where he grounded into a fielder’s choice.

To put it in perspective, Guillorme went 2-for-5 on Sunday Night Baseball against the Philadelphia Phillies, and his batting average since May 17th went down.

The only catch is that Guillorme has only walked three times while only one of those hits was for extra bases. So he’s very much just racking up singles, but it’s still incredible what the veteran has been able to do, and he’s forcing his way into more playing time.

Who’s not?

Austin Voth: Not too long ago, Voth was oh so close to appearing in the above section. That was until he allowed a pair of runs against the Houston, and it’s only gotten worse since then.

The right-handed reliever has allowed multiple runs in each of his last four appearances, combining for a slightly unbelievable 29.45 ERA in that span, ballooning his ERA on the season to 9.35, more than any other pitcher who has pitched at least as many innings as him (17.1).

Even in recent mop-up duty, Voth has been letting games get away from him, and could be the victim of the team’s potential roster crunch if they need space to call up another pitcher.

Patrick Mazeika: While the former Sean Doolittle look-a-like has had a couple of clutch hits during his time with the Mets, lately, his line resembles that of a major league backup catcher.

Since his game-winning home run in his season debut against the Seattle Mariners, Mazeika is slashing just .172/.172/.276 in 30 plate appearances, notching three doubles and three RBIs in that time, but not doing a whole lot else at the plate.

With James McCann still a few weeks away from returning, Mazeika looks locked in as the second-string catcher behind Tomás Nido for the time being at least.

From the opposing dugout

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

One more thing to watch

After his short outing in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rockies, the Nationals decided to designate Aaron Sanchez for assignment.

After seven starts with the team, Sanchez sported an ugly 8.33 ERA and 1.76 WHIP, both of which were career highs. He wasn’t missing enough bats, with only 16 strikeouts in 31.1 innings, and allowed plenty of hard contact, including six home runs in those seven starts.

Unfortunately for the right-hander, he was able to discover the form that he showed briefly with the San Francisco Giants last season where he held a 3.06 ERA in nine appearances, seven of which were starts, and pitched his way out of a rotation spot with the Nationals.

That now leaves the Nationals needing a new starting pitcher in their rotation at some point in this series with the Mets, which manager Dave Martinez hinted would be on Wednesday.

“We’re going to need a spot here next week,” Martinez said of the situation on Sunday. “We felt right now was a good time to start thinking about what we’re going to do for Wednesday. Right now, I can tell you right now we have a lot of different options and different things we’re thinking about, we won’t have a decision till probably Tuesday.”

After suffering a setback in his first rehab start, Joe Ross has been shut down again, so isn’t in contention for the start. Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, after making his second rehab start on Sunday, likely needs another rehab start or two before he’s ready to rejoin the rotation.

The Nationals’ other options that are currently on the 40-man roster, though, are limited.

They could stretch out either Paolo Espino or Josh Rogers, who are currently in the bullpen and started for the team last year. They could also call up Evan Lee, who currently has a 3.60 in seven starts for Double-A Harrisburg, or Cory Abbott, who’s started for Rochester on Wednesday for the first time, but might not be fully stretched out.

So could they look at someone else off of the 40-man roster to make the start?

“That starter could come from off the 40-Man, yeah,” Martinez explained. “We’re weighing all our different options, but we won’t make that decision till Tuesday.”

Those who are getting their hopes up for Cade Cavalli will want to temper expectations.

The right-hander, who still has plenty to work through at Triple-A, started on Saturday, so wouldn't be able to start the Wednesday game of this series on full rest.

Perhaps the most likely option not on the 40-man roster right now is Jackson Tetreault, who started on Friday, so would be on full rest. The right-hander has made 10 starts at Triple-A and has impressed to the tune of a 3.35 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 21 walks in 48.1 innings.

With Sanchez DFA’d, the Nationals do have a 40-man spot open should they want to call someone up. But for now, the team will play things close to the chest regarding their starter for the finale of this series...

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: This series will likely see Charlie Blackmon become the Rockies’ hit leader against the Nationals since the franchise moved to the nation’s capital. But which player will he be overtaking? That player also leads the Rockies in home runs and RBIs against the Nats.

Answer: Carlos González

Here’s our trivia question for this series with the Mets, and with the Nationals just one win away from their infamous 19-31 mark, we look back at that 2019 series that sent them to that mark...

In that series in 2019 against the Mets that sunk the Nationals to 19-31, can you name the three Nats pitchers that recorded blown saves in the final three games of the four-game set?