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.”