Aug 3, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
Mets earn a sweep – The Mets made a statement this weekend with their sweep of the Nationals, a convincing trio of wins capped off by Tyler Clippard getting Jose Lobaton to pop up for the final out on Sunday night. They earned a tie atop the NL East and seem energized by their trade deadline acquisitions of both Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes. It was New York’s first sweep of the Nationals since 2009.
The Mets will now move on to play the Marlins in Miami, while the Nationals will return home to host the Diamondbacks. Two months remain in the season and, if this weekend is any indication, it should be a hotly contested race to the finish line for the division crown.
The Mets left this weekend feeling good about their chances in the NL East and they should. They just took care of the Nationals with a combination of dominant starting pitching and timely hits. Their lineup is much more imposing with Cespedes in the mix, especially when Lucas Duda is playing up to his potential. Once they get David Wright back, they will be even more impressive.
The Nationals should see the Mets for the threat that they truly are, but also understand that there is another gear for themselves to reach. Anthony Rendon is just starting to heat up, while Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth have yet to round into form.
They got encouraging news this weekend about Denard Span’s recovery and getting him back soon would work wonders. The Nats are 35-24 with Span this season and just 19-25 without him. Since he joined the team before the 2013 season, their winning percentage in games he plays is .579 (208-151) and just .411 (28-40) when he doesn’t.
The Nationals also played this series – and the last between the two teams – without Max Scherzer. He is easily the Nats’ best pitcher and has allowed just one run in 14 2/3 innings against the Mets this season.
The Nats will not be making excuses for themselves, and that is not the intention of this argument. But it’s clear the Nationals have a good chance to be better than they are now when these two teams face off again in September.
Both the Nationals and Mets are on pace for 85 wins this season. The last team to win a division with less was the 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers, who had 84.
Odds are one of the two, the Nats or Mets, will find their groove and run away with the division. Who will it be?
Injury updates – Rendon, Werth and Zimmerman are back, but this week we should hear more on several players still rehabbing on the disabled list. Span joined the team on Saturday in New York and began baseball activities. This should be a big week for him. Stephen Strasburg will continue his minor league rehab assignment on Monday with the Syracuse Chiefs. After that is done he is likely to rejoin the Nats, perhaps in time to pitch next weekend. And reliever David Carpenter should learn the results of the second opinion he sought on his shoulder this week.
Schedule eases up briefly – The Nationals just finished a 10-game road trip that began with four games in Pittsburgh, went through Miami and finished in New York against the formidable Mets. That followed a stretch of six games against the first-place Dodgers and Mets to begin the second half of the year. That was not an easy run, whatsoever.
Though the Nats finished just 3-7 on this current road trip, they should have an opportunity to recover at home this week. They begin with four games against the 50-53 Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona was the worst team in baseball last season and has a losing record this year. They are a streaky team that lost nine of 11 from July 10 to 24, then won six straight games from July 25 to July 31. They come to Washington losers of two consectutive games at the Houston Astros.
After Arizona the Nats will host the Colorado Rockies, who own the second-worst record in baseball and just traded away their best player, Troy Tulowitzki. That’s seven straight home games against teams that will not be in the playoffs this year. The Nats better take advantage, as following this homestand is a long West Coast trip that begins with seven games at the L.A. Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Bryce Harper 7/29 vs. Marlins – 3-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R.
Pitching game of the week: Max Scherzer 7/30 vs. Marlins – 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 6 SO. 109 pitches, 75 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Jonathan Papelbon on why he waived his no-trade clause to join the Nats under the condition that he would be the closer…
Well, for me, I’m getting up there on the all-time closing list and that’s important to me. When Theo [Epstein] had me as a young kid in Boston and he wanted to start me, I said ‘no, I’m a closer, that’s what I want to be. That’s who I am.’ This is what I envisioned, this is what I envisioned. I envisioned chasing Mariano [Rivera]. I’ve told Mariano at many All-Star games that ‘I’m coming after you.’ That’s part of it. Ego, maybe you want to call it, whatever you want to say. For me, it’s a path that I started a long time ago, 11 years ago, and now I’m trying to do everything that I can to continue that and win championships as a closer… This is what I’m best at. When I feel like I’m best in a certain situation, I don’t necessarily want to be taken out of it.
Tweet of the week:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 29, 2015
MON – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Fister)
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Scherzer)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Gonzalez)
THU – 4:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Ross)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Colorado Rockies (Zimmermann)
SAT – 7:05 p.m. vs. Colorado Rockies (Fister)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Colorado Rockies (Scherzer)
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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