It didn’t help that Max Scherzer gave up 5 earned runs on seven hits over six innings, it definitely didn’t help that the Mets got a run home because of a balk that wasn’t a balk, and it didn’t help that Matt Williams managed the bullpen for situational matchups, pitching Felipe Rivero on no rest after a two inning stint yesterday, and not settling on one pitcher to get three outs. That’ll get you in the playoffs, and today’s game certainly felt like a playoff game.
But what if this was the game the Nationals were expected to lose? What if, instead of expecting to hammer Jon Niese and for Scherzer to shut down the Mets, that it was more likely that Strasburg and Zimmermann could down them and that the Nats could muster some offense against Harvey and deGrom, and take two out of three, like everyone was expecting, or at least hoping for? People would call this piece crazy. But it’s not a crazy idea – in fact, it’s very probable.
Over his last 7 appearances, Max Scherzer has struggled. In fact, struggle might be an understatement. Over his last seven starts, he’s given up a total of 27 earned runs over 40 innings pitched. That averages out into a 6.08 ERA. Even worse, a slew of Mets have historically hit Scherzer well. The Nationals, despite knocking out Jon Niese early, didn’t do well with the bullpen and weren’t able to push across any runs after their 5-run outburst in the fourth. Was it surprising when the Mets tied it against Scherzer? It certainly wasn’t shocking.
At this point, most Nats fans are sitting on their couch, feeling depressed about their chances this season, and angry with themselves for leaving early and annoying Bryce Harper. Well, there’s still a good chance for tomorrow and the next day, and you can stay late next time.
The next few matchups show Harvey and deGrom, which looks pretty menacing. They actually aren’t.
Harvey, despite all the news about his elbow, didn’t light up his last start, when he gave up four runs over six innings. Plus, the Nationals have been able to hit Harvey at Nationals Park this season. Although Harvey is Harvey, he’s facing a lot of challenges. So, expecting an average, or slightly sub-par performance from the offense, that still leaves us with one problem. If we score three runs, the Mets could score four. Or five. So, even with today’s above average performance, Scherzer let the team down. But that may not be an issue tomorrow. Since his exceptional start against the Dodgers, Zimmermann has been in form excepting one shaky performance against the Rockies, not to mention that his home ERA is a mere 2.52 this year. And, in two out of three starts (which were not-so coincidentally at home) against the Mets, he has given up less than three runs in both starts. In those two starts at Nationals Park, the Mets have a combined 12 hits and four runs. Zimmermann has their number in D.C., or at least he has so far this season.
And regarding deGrom? The Nationals have five starters who hit over .270 against him, and Strasburg, who is coming out of an August where, pre-injury, he went 3-1, pitched 30 innings (more than any other month this year), and gave up only 9 earned runs, averaging out to an E.R.A. of 2.50. Provided that he’s functional on Wednesday, that game could also prove to be interesting and possibly turn out in the Nationals’ favor.
If you’re wondering about the statistics used in this article, they’re all there. Some are interpreted one way, some the other, some are disregarded, and some aren’t. But when you get to this point in the season, doing that isn’t bending things so much that they’re inaccurate, or a sign of a writer who’s trying to make things look much better than they are. It’s a sign of hope.