The Washington Nationals would love to keep their momentum going into a pivotal series next week, and a matchup with the New York Mets could help. So could the return of their All-Star shortstop. With Ian Desmond expected to come off the disabled list, the Nationals will try to add to their recent dominance of the Mets in Friday night's series opener in the nation's capital. Washington (73-45) maintained its lead in the NL East - currently four games - by winning eight of 10 on one of its longest road trips of the season. The Nationals wrapped up their trek by taking two of three over West contender San Francisco.
Washington will get three matchups with second-place Atlanta on its six-game homestand, but first it will play three against the Mets (56-62), who have dropped seven of 10 but defeated NL Central-leading Cincinnati 8-4 on Thursday. The Nationals are 9-3 against New York this season, and Desmond's return might help them continue that success. The shortstop, who has been out since July 21 because of a torn left oblique, was batting .388 with six homers and 17 RBIs in his final 19 games before the injury.
Desmond is batting .353 over his last 17 games against the Mets, and probable Friday starter Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18 ERA) will take the hill. An illness limited Detwiler to 4 2-3 innings in a 7-4 loss to Arizona on Sunday. He gave up five runs after allowing a total of two over his two previous outings, each lasting seven innings. Detwiler will be opposed by Johan Santana (6-8, 4.58), who struggled Saturday in his return from the disabled list. The left-hander, who missed nearly a month because of a sprained right ankle, gave up a season-high eight runs over 1 1-3 innings of a 9-3 loss to Atlanta, leaving him 0-4 with a 17.36 ERA over his last four outings. Santana is 3-6 with a 7.98 ERA in nine starts since recording the Mets' first no-hitter June 1 against St. Louis. He's allowed one run in each of his past two matchups with Washington, but hasn't defeated the Nationals since May 27, 2009. He was on the wrong end of a 4-0 result April 11 at Citi Field.
Another bargain of a price here in this spot as we look to continue to put a stranglehold on plays like these the final quarter of the season. Despite once again the post ASB struggles the Mets are going through Terry Collins and company will not lay down. David Wright (.320 16 75) may have tailed off a bit in the second half but management would be crazy not to re-sign him at the hot corner with a tendency to finish his career in NY. Ike Davis (.216 21 65) who near the halfway point was hitting just .160 and was the subject of being demoted to AAA has nicely salvaged his season leading the Mets in HR while raising his average 50 points. Scott Hairston (.266 14 44) has proven to be a solid versatile utility player and this club has gotten contributions all over the lineup to overshadow the demise of Jason Bay. Detwiler cannot afford to let up especially since his Nats have the best record in all of baseball. Now that Washington has neared full strength, the emergence of Adam Laroche (.265 23 77) means the Nats are the team to beat down the stretch on their way to the postseason. In addition to the return of Desmond (.286 17 53) , Ryan Zimmerman (.277 16 66) continues to put up capable and productive seasonal numbers after a slow start. Michael Morse (.300 11 40) even leads the team in hitting and Jayson Werth, while not as productive since coming back from the injury is hitting .314 in limited time. Danny Espinosa (.255 13 44) has put up productive numbers while versatile with his defense, and rookie phenom Bryce Harper (.245 10 32) will look to finish off August strong after running into some recent struggles. Given the series of rough outings Santana has encountered it could be another long night. Best of luck however you play!