NATIONALS (61-55) AT METS (61-56)
1:10 p.m. ET; SNY, MASN, MLB.TV
For weeks now, the Washington Nationals have served as the inspiration for struggling teams hoping to climb back into contention.
But if the Nationals are going to hang on to their suddenly precarious perch atop the National League wild-card race Sunday afternoon, they’re going to have to beat the team threatening to rewrite the template for in-season Cinderella runs.
The scorching hot New York Mets will look to complete their climb from the bottom of the NL into wild-card position Sunday when they host the Nats in the finale of a three-game series.
Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (7-7, 2.77 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Mets against the Nationals’ Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 3.67) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets ran their winning streak to eight games Saturday night when Luis Guillorme led off the eighth inning with a game-tying pinch-hit homer — the first round-tripper of his big league career — and J.D. Davis lofted the go-ahead sacrifice fly five batters later to lift New York to a 4-3 victory.
The Mets, who were tied for 13th place in the NL and eight games out of the second wild card on July 24, have won 15 of their last 16 games to move within a half-game of the Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, who are tied for the two wild-card spots.
With a win on Sunday, the Mets would complete their most pivotal home sweep since they took three in a row from the Nationals from July 31 through Aug. 2, 2015, to move into a tie for first place with Washington in the NL East. New York took over sole possession of first place the next day and ended up reaching the World Series.
“I think it’s pretty reminiscent of what happened in 2015, it’s really exciting,” Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard told reporters Saturday night. “Anybody in the clubhouse has the potential to be the hero. Tonight it was ‘G.’ It was awesome. Awesome win. (Looking to) put the final nail in the coffin (Sunday) with deGrom on the mound.”
The Nationals aren’t too far removed from their own stirring run. Washington was 12 games under .500 following the games of May 23 before mounting a 30-11 surge that vaulted it into a wild-card spot.
With that spot now endangered, Nationals manager Dave Martinez implored his players Saturday night to embrace the sudden competition with the Mets and to remember how Washington got back into the race.
“We’re fighting to get in the playoffs, they’re fighting to get in the playoffs,” Martinez said. “I believe in those boys in that clubhouse. People kicked us, we were down and you saw what they can do. Not by any means are we down.”
Both deGrom and Sanchez earned wins in their most recent starts. On Monday, DeGrom allowed two runs over seven innings as the Mets beat the Miami Marlins 6-2. A day later, Sanchez gave up two runs (one earned) over six innings in the Nationals’ 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants.
DeGrom is 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 17 career starts against the Nationals. Sanchez is 5-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 15 starts against the Mets.
–Field Level Media