Mets-Nationals Preview

The Washington Nationals would love to keep their momentum going

into a pivotal series next week, and a matchup with the New York

Mets could help. So could the return of their All-Star

shortstop.

With Ian Desmond coming off the disabled list, the Nationals

will try to add to their recent dominance of the Mets in Friday

night’s series opener in the nation’s capital.

Washington (73-45) maintained its lead in the NL East –

currently four games – by winning eight of 10 on one of its longest

road trips of the season. The Nationals wrapped up their trek by

taking two of three over West contender San Francisco.

Washington will get three matchups with second-place Atlanta on

its six-game homestand, but first it will play three against the

Mets (56-62), who have dropped seven of 10 but defeated NL

Central-leading Cincinnati 8-4 on Thursday.

The Nationals are 9-3 against New York this season, and

Desmond’s return might help them continue that success. The

shortstop, who has been out since July 21 because of a torn left

oblique, was batting .388 with six homers and 17 RBIs in his final

19 games before the injury.

“We haven’t really all been together, and we’re still missing

(catcher) Willy Ramos,” manager Davey Johnson told the Nationals’

official website. “Getting Desi back, that’ll be great.”

Desmond is batting .353 over his last 17 games against the Mets,

and probable Friday starter Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18 ERA) has also

been at his best in recent matchups with New York.

The left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last three starts

versus the Mets and has not allowed a run in two starts against

them this season, spanning 12 innings. He pitched seven innings

July 17 at Nationals Park but did not get a decision in

Washington’s 5-4 victory.

An illness limited Detwiler to 4 2-3 innings in a 7-4 loss to

Arizona on Sunday. He gave up five runs after allowing a total of

two over his two previous outings, each lasting seven innings.

“He was really under the weather before he even started the

game,” Johnson said. “He lost it during the game and you could tell

by his mannerisms that he didn’t feel right.”

Detwiler will be opposed by Johan Santana (6-8, 4.58), who

struggled Saturday in his return from the disabled list. The

left-hander, who missed nearly a month because of a sprained right

ankle, gave up a season-high eight runs over 1 1-3 innings of a 9-3

loss to Atlanta, leaving him 0-4 with a 17.36 ERA over his last

four outings.

“I’m just trying to get my command back,” Santana said. “It’s

been a while since I faced batters of this caliber. I just need to

continue to make some progress and improve my command.”

Santana is 3-6 with a 7.98 ERA in nine starts since recording

the Mets’ first no-hitter June 1 against St. Louis. He’s allowed

one run in each of his past two matchups with Washington, but

hasn’t defeated the Nationals since May 27, 2009. He was on the

wrong end of a 4-0 result April 11 at Citi Field.

Washington’s Michael Morse, who is riding a 12-game hit streak,

has at least one hit in all nine of his games against the Mets this

season but is 0 for 8 lifetime versus Santana.