Mets-Nationals Preview

The Washington Nationals have gotten a number of contributions

during what’s looking more and more like their first playoff-bound

season in eight years in the nation’s capital.

Michael Morse has given his surging club some significant help

lately and will try to help add to its recent dominance over the

New York Mets on Saturday night.

Washington (74-45) is only eight wins shy of securing its first

winning season since relocating from Montreal after the 2004

campaign. The Nationals, though, have their sights set on bigger

goals, namely the franchise’s first postseason berth since

1981.

Washington is speeding toward that goal with 21 victories in 27

games and Morse has helped his team earn some of those wins with a

13-game hit streak, the longest current run in the NL and longest

by a Nationals player this season. He hit a go-ahead grand slam in

Friday’s 6-4 win over the Mets (56-63), and Bryce Harper added a

two-run shot for his first homer in 11 games.

“It has been a lot of fun watching Mikey the last couple of

years, kind of come into his own and turn into the player that he

has become. He is awesome,” outfielder Jayson Werth told the team’s

official website. “He is a great teammate and a great guy to

have.”

Morse, batting .315 with four homers and 12 RBIs during his

streak, has recorded at least one hit in each of his 10 games

against New York this season. He has three doubles in 12 career

at-bats against the Mets’ Jonathon Niese (9-6, 3.67 ERA).

Niese enters this start having given up one run in two of his

last three outings, including a 6-5 win over Atlanta on Sunday. The

left-hander matched a season high by going eight innings while

rebounding from a 4-2 loss to Miami on Aug. 7.

“I don’t consider it me struggling very much, but I might have

had a rough game here and there,” Niese said of his recent

outings.

Niese is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his last four starts against the

Nationals, who have won 10 of 12 over New York, but he hasn’t

recorded a decision in the past two matchups. He gave up one run

and three hits over seven innings while striking out eight at

Nationals Park on July 17 as the Mets lost 5-4.

He’ll pitch opposite Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.74), who has

performed well in his two starts against New York this season. The

veteran right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in those games and

earned a 5-3 home victory June 6, allowing three runs and three

hits over seven innings.

Jackson gave up five runs over 5 2-3 innings last Saturday in

Arizona but got enough support for a 6-5 victory.

“Right now, we can afford to have a game like today, when you

have a starter out there having to kind of grind through it without

his best stuff and still come away with a win,” first baseman Adam

LaRoche said after that game.

Jackson hasn’t pitched past the sixth inning in each of his last

three starts.