Nationals at Mets series: 3 things to watch

August 24, 2018

Clinging to their long-shot playoff hopes, the Nationals begin a three-game series on Friday night in New York against the Mets.

Here are three things to look for:

Who will Mets fans boo?

Now that Daniel Murphy has been traded to the Cubs, what Nationals player will the New York fans boo?

Actually that is an easy one. That would be Bryce Harper (30 homers, 81 RBI), the budding free agent who had lifted his average to .252 before Thursday’s game with the Phillies.

Murphy was a postseason star for the Mets in 2015, when the team lost to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

He said he had just one suitor after he became a free agent: the Nationals, who signed him to a three-year contract. Murphy tormented Mets pitchers during his tenure with the Nationals, and he will get a chance to hit against Washington next month when the Cubs come to Nationals Park.

Murphy hit .300 or better in each of three seasons with the Nationals. He was traded to the Cubs on Tuesday for a minor league infielder, ending his Washington stay.

Can Gio Gonzalez figure things out?

The Washington lefty has won just one game since late May, and many times he is not giving the Nationals a chance to win.

Gonzalez is 7-10 with an ERA of 4.51 and will start on Friday against the Mets. He will be opposed by Mets lefty Jason Vargas, who is 3-8 with an ERA of 7.67.

The other starting pitchers in the series for the Nationals are right-hander Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.05) on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. and rookie righty Jefry Rodriguez (1-1, 5.46) on Sunday at 1:10 p.m.

Roark is 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his last six starts. He said the Nationals will miss Murphy and Matt Adams, who was traded to the Cardinals on Tuesday.

“I still feel we have a great clubhouse, and we still have a chance,” Roark told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “We have a month left. We are just going to keep playing ... the old clich of one game at a time. We have to win every series.”

The Mets plan to start righty Zack Wheeler (8-6, 3.63) on Saturday and lefty Steven Matz (5-10, 4.55) on Sunday.

Can the Nationals stay in the race?

That is the big question.

The Nationals get a break as they won’t have to face Mets ace Jacob deGrom while in New York.

Washington was 64-63 going into play Thursday and was 7.5 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves and 4.5 games behind the second-place Phillies.

In the wild card race the Nationals were trailing St. Louis (71-57), Milwaukee (71-58), Colorado (69-57), the Phillies (68-58) and Los Angeles (67-61).

The Nationals are 31-33 on the road this season while the Mets were 56-70 through Wednesday.

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