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Will the Mets be the Nats’ biggest challengers in 2015?

Apr 7, 2015, 3:44 PM EST

Photo by USA Today

If the preseason predictions are to be believed, the Washington Nationals are supposed to waltz through the National League East without much resistance. After all, they have what is widely considered to be the best starting rotation in the game to go along with a balanced lineup that, when healthy, should be able to score in bunches.

But after a 3-1 Opening Day loss to the New York Mets, players on both clubs were quick to remind people to pump the breaks on the division championship proclamations; they have to play the games first.

“I’ve said all along our division is really good,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Obviously [the Mets], the Marlins and, people don’t talk about the Braves, but I think they’re going to be pretty good. Even the Phillies when you go in there, they’ve got some good pitching”

For sure, one game in the loss column doesn’t spell doom, and the Nats may ultimately be exactly what many expect them to. But good luck telling that to the rest of the division right now.

“I don’t put much emphasis on [preseason predictions],” said Mets third baseman David Wright. “There’s a lot of experts that choose the World Series [contenders] before you play a game.

“I don’t look into what the predictions are, what the teams are supposed to do on paper, and that includes us. It’s going out there, and that’s why you play the game.”

In 2014, the Nats had their way against their division rivals from the Big Apple, compiling a 15-4 record while outscoring them 95-52. So it’s no secret in the Mets clubhouse what needs to change if New York wants to surprise this season.

“I think all the team felt that way,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “We wanted to get off in the right direction against these guys. These guys had our number last year. They easily had our number. [Monday] we all knew that going into the game and we all wanted to get this season started the right way.”

Monday’s opener showed that starting pitching alone can’t propel the Nats to where they want to go. Shortstop Ian Desmond had two crucial errors that led to the Mets’ only runs of the ballgame, and the Nats lineup that is currently without of a few key bats was unable to muster enough offense to overcome the mistakes in the field. It was just one game, but a division rival showed that being opportunistic will work against anyone, even the prohibitive NL East favorites.

“When something [bad] happens, no matter how good you are, it comes back to hurt you at times,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “[Monday] it hurt them, and we took advantage of it.”

With a slew of early season health issues along with having to go up against perceived “upstart” teams like the Mets and Marlins, a second straight division crown for the Nats probably won’t be a cakewalk — and they know it.

“Everybody in our division is going to be tough this year, the Mets especially,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. “There is nobody in our division that we can take lightly.”

[RELATED: Depleted Nats lineup squanders opportunities]

  1. alexva6 - Apr 7, 2015 at 3:53 PM

    wow, eleven posts in the last two days.

    remember boys, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

  2. rlndtln - Apr 7, 2015 at 4:35 PM

    Tough to start 0-3 against Mets.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 7, 2015 at 6:44 PM

      Actually, if the Nats hit like they did yesterday, it won’t be tough at all.

  3. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 7, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    The Nats’ biggest challenge is themselves. Yesterday’s loss comprised the elements that have bedeviled them for the past three seasons — free swingers who struck out ten times against 90 mph fastballs; shaky defense at important moments, and now a third starting pitcher ruled by his adrenal glands. If they figure out how to compress all of that talent into team baseball they’ll be unbeatable — except when they don’t.

  4. micksback1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 4:53 PM

    OK, the rest of my predictions for what it is worth: I am sure many will laugh but what the hell…

    Yes, Mets will finish 2nd in East, assuming Harvey is OK.

    NL East

    Nats
    Mets
    Braves
    Marlins
    Phils

    NL Central

    Cards
    Reds
    Cubbies
    Pirates
    Brewers

    NL West

    Dodgers
    Giants
    Rockies
    Padres
    Zona

    Wild Card: Mets beat Giants

    Nats beat Cards 3-1
    Dodgers beat Mets 3-2

    Nats beat dodgers 4-1

    AL in next post

  5. micksback1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 4:59 PM

    AL predictions

    AL east

    O’s
    Red Sox
    Blue Jays
    Yankees
    Tampa

    AL Central

    Indians
    Tigers
    Chisox
    Royals
    Twins

    AL West

    Mariners
    Angels
    A’s
    Texas
    Astros

    Wild Card: Angels beat Bosox

    O’s beat Indians 3-2
    Angels beat Mariners Mariners 3-2

    Angels beat O’s 4-2

    WS Bryce verse Trout

    4-3, but not sure Nats win

  6. micksback1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:04 PM

    few other Nat predictions

    Gio will win -17
    Jordan Zim 15
    Stras 13
    Fister 18
    Max 18

    Roark will win 10 in long relief or spot duty

    Bull pen will struggle until a blockbuster trade in late Spring or early summer takes place involving Desi.

    Uggla will be cut by June 1

    Harper, 35 HR, 85 RBI
    Werth and R Zim will hit 120 RBI’s between them
    Ramos will hit 21 HR
    Lobaton will have a big role as well

    • tcostant - Apr 8, 2015 at 10:19 AM

      Hard for me to understand how Ramos could have 21 HR’s and Lobaton will also have a big role?

  7. NatsLady - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:06 PM

    I worry more about the Fish than the Mets. The Fish are young and healthy and they have Stanton. The Mets have some pitching (less today than yesterday) but their lineup is vulnerable.

    Stanton, IMO, is more than just a “star” with great athletic ability. He will push his team.

    • micksback1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:07 PM

      Fish will be dangerous in 2016

  8. micksback1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:08 PM

    I could start a Mick’s Picks blog

    lol

  9. Section 222 - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:20 PM

    In a word, “no”.

    I expect Marlins will be our biggest challenger in the NL East.

    • adcwonk - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:29 PM

      Interesting. I think the Mets pitching could put them over the Fish.

      • Section 222 - Apr 7, 2015 at 5:56 PM

        Yes it could. But their hitting won’t be good enough to sustain that.

      • nats106 - Apr 7, 2015 at 6:13 PM

        Fun game for a rainy day. I took your NL predictions and came up with:

        NL East

        Nats Yes
        Mets No- Marlins but they are 1 position injury from disaster-bench is too thin
        Braves No-Mets their lack of hitting (sound familiar to us) and lack of BP strength will be their undowing
        Marlins No Braves They are going to be bad but not as bad as the Phillies
        Phils Yes

        NL Central

        Cards Yes Best team in the NL-sorry but it’s true
        Reds No-Pirates Hitting improved, they will get a WC
        Cubbies Yes Not this year…..
        Pirates No-Reds
        Brewers Yes

        NL West

        Dodgers Yes
        Giants No Padres -too many injuries not even Bochy can save then this time. And no, I’m not on the Padres bandwagon-this is going to prove to be a weak division.
        Rockies No GIants- Giants are not that bad and the Rockies not that good.
        Padres Rockies (see above)
        Zona yes, they are still bad and have 6 corner guys to play 1st 3rd and two OF positions…..

        Let’s mark these posts have a monthly report card.

  10. nats106 - Apr 7, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    Man that was tougher to read than I thought:

    My NL picks

    EAST
    Nats
    Marlins
    Mets
    Braves
    Phillies

    CENTRAL
    Cards
    Pirates
    Cubs
    Reds
    Brewers

    WEST
    Dodgers
    Padres
    GIants
    ROX
    Arizona

    WC: Pirates and Marlins

    • tcostant - Apr 8, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      NL East Nats
      NL Central Pirates
      NL West Dodgers

      NLWC Marlins and Padres

      NL Champ Nats

      AL East Blue Jays
      AL Central Indians
      AL West Mariners

      ALWC Tigers and Angels

      AL Champ Mariners

      WS Champ Nats over Seattle

  11. micksback1 - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:04 PM

    I love it 106!

    we should do a monthly check, that would be fun

    I like your picks and you could be right about Padres in 2nd

  12. Eugene in Oregon - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:04 PM

    Miami strikes me as a bigger threat than the Mets. But, as Theo notes above, the Nats biggest challenge (as they discovered in 2013) will be staying healthy and playing up to their potential, as well as dealing with the hype and expectations that have been created around the team and the season.

  13. stoatva - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:26 PM

    Nate Karns getting hammered by the Oreos.

    • positivelyhalfst - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:43 PM

      Oh, Karns, I did not wish that on you. You are pulling a Mat Latos tonight. On top of that, Souza, Jr. has not had a good start. Do I want the Nats to win both trades? I suppose- I would be happy to have all involved do very well, instead. I just don’t want Rizzo to come out on the short end.

  14. stoatva - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    Matt Latos had a memorable debut for the Fish. Got two guys out (one of them a sac bunt by the pitcher). Charged with seven runs (so far).

    Heh.

  15. positivelyhalfst - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:36 PM

    It is so hard to root for the Braves, but I am loving watching them put a beating on Miami. New Fish pitcher Mat Latos lasted 2/3 of an inning, and so far has given up 7 earned runs. I hope this bodes badly for the Fish.

    • Doc - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:30 PM

      For the Fish, it’s sink or swim. Let’s hope it’s sink!

  16. positivelyhalfst - Apr 7, 2015 at 7:41 PM

    Here’s the funny part of the current destruction of Miami. I can now watch as long as I please, rooting for Michael Morse to get a home run, or for Ichiro to come in and get a few hits closer to 3000 during garbage time.

  17. stoatva - Apr 7, 2015 at 8:12 PM

    Souza with the RBI groundout.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:05 PM

      He made a bonehead play yesterday on an infield single as he ran through 1st base he turned his body towards 2nd base and was tagged out.

  18. thenatom - Apr 7, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Unfortunately, it’s much more fun to hate the Phillies and Braves, both of whom are irrelevant now.

  19. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:03 PM

    “@dennistlin: Trea Turner, Padres shortstop prospect and Nationals PTBNL, will open the season with Double-A San Antonio. http://t.co/gvjTUO4u1l

    I wonder if that was a Rizzo request versus High-A.

    • Doc - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:28 PM

      Interesting.

      Be good to know the back story, Ghost. Put your ear to the ground and see if you can hear what the buffalo are doing..

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:31 PM

        That would fast track Turner and I guess we will have to wait to see Turner and Difo playing together.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 7, 2015 at 11:19 PM

      Cool. I have a Missions cap and a tattoo sleeve from a game there a few years ago.

    • Doc - Apr 7, 2015 at 11:46 PM

      Me?

      I am indeed waiting for Difo and Turner to appear in a Nats’ big league game!

      Time to get SS and 2nd back on target!

      Rendon to SS Difo (or 2B Turner) to Zim—-my idea of a round the horn DP.

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2015 at 5:21 AM

        I think assigning Turner to 2nd is premature.

  20. veejh - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:09 PM

    No way. Marlins will much tougher. Their OF is silly, much better bats, and their pitching is about the same as the Mets.

  21. Eugene in Oregon - Apr 7, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting 3rd for the Rays. Nuf said.

  22. ehay2k - Apr 7, 2015 at 11:28 PM

    I’d rather that the Barves had given Kimbrel a big contract only to find out he is on the decline. But he’s currently a good pitcher so having him out of the division is a positive.

    As for the Nats, Scherzer looked really good yesterday. He had a couple of uncharacteristic walks, and didnt pick up Desi after the botched popup. But it didn’t help him that he was walking to the dugout when our own Bad News Bears muffed the popup, and he was pretty ticked off about the misplay. Going back up on the mound wasn’t easy, I’m willing to bet.

    But the fielding and communications stuff can be easily solved. Lack of pitching? Not so much. And the hitting will improve when we get our better hitters back. Bottom line, I’d rather have our problems than those of most other teams.

    The longest season in pro sports has started, and I plan to enjoy watching it unfold.

  23. snopes1 - Apr 8, 2015 at 12:22 AM

    On a related issue, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported today that the player who is receiving the highest pay from the Atlanta Braves currently is … the Nats’ starting second baseman, Dan Uggla.

    This makes me very happy.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2015 at 5:24 AM

      Yeah, well, let’s just hope that the Braves don’t get their money’s worth with the last laugh regarding Uggla being on the Nats.

      • Section 222 - Apr 8, 2015 at 8:00 AM

        I think we can safely say that’s not going to happen.

  24. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2015 at 5:18 AM

    So, our old buddy Craig Kimbrel made his first appearance for the Padres against the Dodgers last night, faced three batters, stuck out all of them.

  25. rabbit433 - Apr 8, 2015 at 6:52 AM

    The biggest challenge to the Nationals this year is going to be the Nationals. There is no worry about their six starters. The worry is Desmond and the non-run producing lineup. Desmond errors are particularly going to be notable. The hitting in crucial situations may come around when the regular lineup comes back. The Mets will be very competitive this year. They came through Monday when scoring opportunities, thanks to Desmond, came around. MS was great. Too bad he wasn’t in Detroit. He would have had a win! Here, well we just have a team that continues to squander opportunities. But, oh, that Desmond. He should visit Hagerstown!

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