Nationals look for first run, win in series against Mets

NEW YORK — Nearly a month ago, the Washington Nationals scored 25 runs against the New York Mets.

Now they are on the verge of going scoreless in New York.

The Nationals seek their first run since Wednesday night when they try to avert a three-game sweep by the Mets on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.

Since Ryan Zimmerman hit a game-winning, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Seranthony Dominguez to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals have not scored. In those 27 innings, the Nationals are batting .176 (16-for-91) with 28 strikeouts while going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position and 3-for-27 with men on base.

It is the first time that Washington has been blanked in three straight games since leaving Montreal after the 2004 season. The last instance of the franchise getting shut out in three straight games was April 13-15, 2004, against the Miami Marlins when Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis and Carl Pavano did it.

The Nationals are coming off consecutive 3-0 losses to the Mets, the same team they beat 25-4 at home on July 31. Since scoring the most runs in a game in franchise history, the Nationals are 11-13.

“It’s been difficult,” Nationals center fielder Adam Eaton said. “It’s very mind-numbing because we do have such good talent and we have guys that have unbelievable numbers throughout their career. And for some reason, this year we haven’t really been able to put it together.”

Eaton had two of Washington’s seven hits and reached four times Saturday.

The Nationals desperately tried to get a spark, and they began the game with consecutive bunts, a hit-and-run play and a delayed steal.

“I’m trying to get things going, and moving things around and see what happens,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “It’s like somebody shut the door to get home. We got to get home. We got to get home.”

Bryce Harper is hitless in 11 at-bats during the shutout streak and hitless in his last 13 at-bats since a fourth-inning single Wednesday.

Since suffering the worst loss in team history, the Mets (58-71) are 14-9 in their last 20 games. They also are 11-6 in their last 17 after Amed Rosario homered and had three hits Saturday.

“I think the guys know that we’re better than we should’ve been in the past, and we’re starting to play like a team that’s more capable,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “It’s fun that nobody’s ever lost their enthusiasm.”

New York also had produced consecutive shutouts for the first time since Aug. 11-12, 2015, when Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom beat the Colorado Rockies. This time, Jason Vargas and Zack Wheeler pitched seven innings apiece and the Mets allowed three runs or less for the eighth straight game while improving to 8-6 against the Nationals.

“We know it’s the Nationals,” Callaway said. “We know that we had our struggles against them. You can feel it. There’s a lot of energy.”

During this shutout streak, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark have produced effective outings for the Nationals. On Sunday, Jefry Rodriguez will make his eighth appearance and sixth career start.

Rodriguez is 1-1 with a 5.46 ERA so far and is facing the Mets for the first time. As a starting pitcher, he is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA. He last pitched Aug. 18 in a 7-5 loss to Miami when he allowed four runs in five innings of a no-decision.

New York’s starting pitchers own a 1.40 ERA in its last eight games and Steven Matz will try to keep it going. Matz will make his third start since ending a disabled list stint with a forearm strain.

He last pitched in Tuesday’s 6-3 win over San Francisco when he allowed two runs in five innings. Matz was on the mound for the 25-4 loss in Washington when he allowed seven runs and eight hits while getting two outs.

The left-hander is 1-3 with a 10.61 ERA in his last five starts after posting a 3.38 ERA before the All-Star break.

He is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in four starts against the Nationals this season. In his career, he is 1-4 with a 4.00 ERA in eight starts against Washington.