MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

Date/Time: July 31, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 3.83) vs. Matt Harvey (9-7, 3.16)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: New York -125

Total: 6.5

After losing two out of three in Washington last week, the New York Mets will have a shot at some quick retribution this weekend against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. The Mets are favored for Friday night’s series opener with Matt Harvey on the bump against Gio Gonzalez. Not much has changed in the standings between these two teams since they last met, as the gap in the division is nearly the same, but both teams bring a different look into this series.

The Nationals are starting to get healthy again, with Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, and Jayson Werth all back in the lineup. They also have a new closer, Jonathan Papelbon, acquired a couple days before the trade deadline for a Double-A reliever. Arguably, the best trade deadline moves the Nationals could make were simply to get their starters back in the lineup. The Mets have added a couple of pieces, with Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, as well as setup man Tyler Clippard. A deal to acquire Carlos Gomez fell through after the Mets took issue with a hip injury paying Gomez.

Gio Gonzalez will be on the mound for the Nationals, looking to continue his solid run of pitching. Since getting knocked around by the Tampa Bay Rays on June 15, Gonzalez has only allowed five earned runs over his last five starts, spanning 31 innings pitched. Gonzalez is kind of an overlooked guy most of the time, even though he has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. Gonzalez had a shoulder injury that limited him to 27 starts last season, but he made at least 32 in each of the four seasons prior.

This season, Gonzalez has been one of the starters hurt the most by Washington’s shoddy defense. The .339 BABIP against that Gonzalez has had to deal with is by far the highest of his last six seasons. His 3.83 ERA is reflective of that high BABIP, since his 3.17 FIP and 3.47 xFIP are pretty much in line with his usual performance. One concern is that Gonzalez’s strikeout rate has dropped a little bit, but he has the highest ground ball percentage of his career at 58.1 percent. In this start against the Mets, Gonzalez should have some success, because they entered play on Thursday ranked 29th in wOBA against lefties, with the third-highest strikeout rate at 24.4 percent.

Fortunately for the Mets, it’s Matt Harvey Day, so they may not need to score much. Harvey is 9-7 with a 3.16 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and 3.51 xFIP for the Metropolitans this season after missing all of 2014 to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Since Harvey was touched up for six runs by the Giants on June 16, he has posted a 2.36 ERA in seven starts. However, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up over that span. Occasional command problems have hurt Harvey, who has allowed 16 home runs in 125.1 innings after allowing 12 home runs in his first 237.2 innings as a big leaguer.

The stuff is still there and the velocity is still really good, so there aren’t a whole lot of concerns with Harvey. The workload may be a concern, as he missed all of last season and made no rehab starts before starting with Mets from day one in 2015, but the Mets have used a six-man rotation for part of the season, so Harvey has gotten some extra rest. Frankly, it’s possible that the extra rest has been part of the lack of sharpness. Pitchers are routine-oriented and not going every fifth day can be tough. The Nationals have gotten most of their starting lineup back, so they are a much different offense than what most of their season-to-date stats would suggest.

MLB Prediction: Washington Nationals

Harvey is good, but so is Gio Gonzalez and the Mets have had so many problems with left-handed pitching this season. This should be a great series, however. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harvey carve up the Nationals lineup since he has held righties to a .213/.247/.316 slash, but the value side in a close game probably falls on the Nationals, who now have a strong bullpen with Drew Storen in middle relief and Jonathan Papelbon in the closer’s role.