Hot Mets starter deGrom faces Nationals (Jul 05, 2017)

BY AP • July 5, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The New York Mets will have their last chance to gain ground head-to-head against the first-place Washington Nationals until late August when they play Wednesday night Nationals Park.

And the Mets could not have a better pitcher on the mound, as Jacob deGrom (8-3, 3.55 ERA) will start in the series finale.

In his past four starts, deGrom went 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA while holding opponents to an average of .139. The right-hander has allowed one run or fewer in 42 of his first 92 major league starts, tying former Mets star Dwight Gooden for the best opening to a career since at least 1913.

It will be the last game between the teams until Aug. 25, when the Mets begin a series in Washington.

Washington won the first two games of the series, 3-2 on Monday and 11-4 on Tuesday, as New York pitchers were victimized by walks. Two Nationals runs scored after walks Monday, and then the Mets walked five batters Tuesday.

"We have to stop it. We have to be able to command the baseball better," Mets manager Terry Collins said after the Tuesday defeat.

The Nationals will start right-hander Tanner Roark (6-6, 5.27 ERA), who has struggled mightily after going 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA last season.

Roark is 6-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 16 games, with 10 starts, in his career against New York. He went 6 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits and three runs but did not figure in the decision in a start earlier this year against the Mets.

The Nationals hope he can turn around his season much like Joe Ross, who allowed just two runs in seven innings Tuesday. Ross turned in his fourth solid outing in a row.

"It was a great start for him -- working all quadrants of the zone," Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy said.

DeGrom is 4-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 10 career starts against Washington, 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA vs. the Nationals this year. The Stetson product got the win June 18 against Washington as he went eight innings and gave up one unearned run in a 5-1 victory.

He earned his fourth win in a row in his last start on Friday at home against the Philadelphia Phillies as he went seven innings and allowed one earned run on three hits. He struck out 12 and walked one.

DeGrom will hope he gets solid backing Wednesday from a Mets defense that has let the team down at times during the series.

"You have to catch it," Collins said. "Some of the best pitching staffs in baseball have some of the best defense."

Mets hitters are batting 42-for-180 (.233) against Roark with three homers.

That includes Curtis Granderson (9-for-27, .333) and Yoenis Cespedes (2-for-13, .154), both of whom did not start Tuesday due to nagging injuries. Collins hopes Cespedes (leg cramp) can start Wednesday, while Granderson (hip) could get another day's rest with an off day looming Thursday.

Granderson was used a pinch hitter Monday and Tuesday.

Washington batters are hitting 31-for-143 (.217) against deGrom. That includes Bryce Harper's impressive numbers (9-for-24, .375).

The Nationals lost starting shortstop Trea Turner on Thursday to a wrist injury that will keep him out several weeks. That means more playing time for Wilmer Difo, who had two hits and scored three times Tuesday and shined in the field.

"He has made some adjustments in his swing, in his approach," Washington manager Dusty Baker said.

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