Mets vs. Nationals Quick Preview
A quick rundown on what’s new with the Nats …
The Nationals added lefty Gio Gonzalez and righty Edwin Jackson to their starting rotation. We’ll miss Gonzalez this time around but Jackson pitches tonight. The 28-year-old righty split last season with the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, going 12-9 in 32 appearances. The Nationals are his seventh team (the others were the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, ChiSox, and Cards) in his nine-year career. Miraculously, Jackson has made just one career start against the Mets — a five-inning, five-run, nine-hit, no-decision on September 20th of last year.
The other new face on the pitching staff is reliever Brad Lidge, who will be used at the end of games while closer Drew Storen is out. Lidge no longer throws 95+ MPH — he struggles to reach 90 — and therefore relies mostly on his slider and keeping his fingers crossed.
First baseman Adam LaRoche is healthy after missing most of 2011 and he is scorching hot, so far hitting .417 with 2 homers. New faces include veteran utilitymen Chad Tracy and Mark DeRosa, as well as former Met Xavier Nady. All three are seeing plenty of action, as the Nats are playing without two-thirds of their projected starting outfield.
Henry Rodriguez is a 25-year-old flamethrower — his fastball averages over 98 MPH — who may have finally “figured it out” after several years struggling with his control. He will be alternating with Lidge as the team’s closer while Drew Storen is on the DL.
The Nats will be playing without Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, and Rick Ankiel, all of whom are on the 15-day DL. Youngsters Chris Marrero and Cole Kimball are out for at least the first half of the year.
The Nats beat the Cubs two out of three to start their season. Bryce Harper is NOT on the club — he’s getting seasoning down in AAA. Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to start against Johan Santana in the final game of the series.
It’s difficult to make any kind of prediction, but I will say that right now is a good time for the Mets to be playing the Nats, since Washington is competing without its closer, fifth starter, starting left fielder, and starting center fielder — and that center fielder is Ankiel, who has a lifetime .322 AVG / .865 OPS with 4 HR and 20 RBI in 36 career games against the Mets.