Nationals, Scherzer try to keep Mets down (Jun 16, 2017)

BY AP • June 16, 2017

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets entered Thursday 8 1/2 games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East yet possessing the more positive momentum of the teams entering a four-game series between the rivals at Citi Field.

But it didn't take long Thursday for the Nationals to once again look like they're back to being the class of the National League East or for the dark cloud perpetually following the Mets to reappear and begin raining down bad news.

The Nationals earned only their second win in the last seven games Thursday, when they cruised to an 8-3 victory.

Washington (40-26) will look to keep the Mets (30-35) reeling Friday, when ace right-hander right-hander Max Scherzer (7-4, 2.36 ERA) is scheduled to face New York left-hander Steven Matz (1-0. 1.29 ERA).

"We haven't exactly been playing the most crisp baseball of late," said Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who went 3-for-5 with a two-run triple Thursday. "You want to come in here and try to get off on the right foot, especially (since) the Mets have been playing well."

The Mets, who had won five of six heading into Thursday, absorbed losses that weren't limited to the scoreboard when they learned three players were headed for the disabled list.

Centerfielder Juan Lagares (broken left thumb) was injured diving for a ball in the fifth inning Thursday, hours after second baseman Neil Walker (torn left hamstring) and pitcher Matt Harvey (right shoulder) each underwent MRIs that confirmed the injuries they suffered Wednesday.

"How many (injuries) can we possibly continue to have to play through?" Mets manager Terry Collins said Thursday night. "You know what the answer is? As many as pop up. That's how many you've got to play through."

Now the task for the Mets, who had won five of six games heading into Thursday, is to get back on track against the red-hot Scherzer, who has thrived against New York since he joined the Nationals prior to the 2015 season.

Scherzer lost his most recent start Sunday, when he allowed three runs while striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings as the Nationals fell to the Texas Rangers 5-1. It was the fourth straight start in which Scherzer has struck out at least 10 batters. He is 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in that stretch with 48 whiffs and only five walks.

Scherzer is 6-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the Mets, including 4-4 with a 2.38 ERA in nine starts since 2015. The best of those starts was a no-hitter Scherzer threw Oct. 3, 2015, when he struck out 17 and missed a perfect game thanks to a throwing error by third baseman Yunel Escobar.

Matz will be making his second start of the season Friday. The 26-year-old, who missed the first 59 games of the season because of left elbow inflammation, won his debut Saturday, when he allowed one run over seven innings as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 8-1. He is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in two career starts against the Nationals.

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