Nationals-Mets Preview

New York Mets manager Terry Collins feels his team is
distracted.

The Washington Nationals are more than happy to take advantage
of that.

The Nationals look to match their win total from last season
while going for their first three-game winning streak in six weeks
Tuesday night when they meet the slumping Mets.

The Mets (71-76) have lost five of six and three in a row
following Monday’s 3-2 loss to Washington, during which they were
held to three hits.

Collins feels New York is still distracted by Sunday’s hat flap
with Major League Baseball, as players were denied the chance to
wear caps honoring emergency-service workers during a loss to
Chicago on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept.
11.

“What’s the attention been since we walked into the ballpark
(Monday)? It’s not on who we’re playing, it’s not on who’s
pitching. We all want to know which kind of hat we’re going to
wear. And that takes away from the game,” Collins said. “It all
takes away from their preparation. We’ve got to start focusing on
what the game is, because, when it’s all said and done, that’s all
that matters.”

The Nationals (68-77) may not mind if the Mets aren’t able to
focus. They need just one more win to match their total from last
season as they try to avoid finishing at the bottom of the NL East
for the fourth straight year.

A victory Tuesday would also give them their longest winning
streak since a four-game run July 30-Aug. 2, which also included
two wins over New York.

Washington turns to Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 4.43 ERA), who is 0-1
over his last four starts.

The right-hander settled down after a rough beginning to his
latest outing Thursday, allowing two runs in the opening inning
before giving up two more in the next five during the Nationals’
7-4 defeat to Los Angeles. He was a bit sharper than his previous
start a week earlier, when he allowed four runs and two homers
without striking anybody out in 5 2-3 innings of his 5-2 loss at
Atlanta.

“I thought he had a great sinker, much more so than his last
outing,” manager Davey Johnson told the team’s official website
Thursday. “His delivery was a lot sounder. As far as I was
concerned, it was a good outing.”

Wang is 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in four career starts against the
Mets. He was tagged for six runs in four innings of an 8-5 home
loss to New York on July 29 in his return from shoulder
surgery.

Dillon Gee (12-6, 4.42) beat Wang in that game, and he’ll be on
the mound Tuesday trying to build on just his third quality start
in seven outings. The rookie right-hander is 2-3 with a 6.51 ERA in
that span, including a rough outing in the Mets’ 8-7 loss at
Washington on Sept. 3.

Gee didn’t get a decision in that game, but allowed six runs and
three homers in five innings. Despite that performance, he’s 3-0
with a 3.08 ERA in four career starts against the Nationals.

He was better Thursday, yielding three runs – two earned – and
four hits with six strikeouts in six-plus innings of a 5-1 loss to
Atlanta.

“For me, it’s huge,” Gee told the Mets’ official website. “This
whole game is how you finish. That’s what people remember.

“This inconsistency right now is kind of killing me, but at
least I am having some good ones and hopefully I can learn from
those and try to repeat them.”