National League Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, August 6 (All times Eastern)
New York Mets (54-59) at Washington Nationals (60-51), 7:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: New York - Jonathon Niese (5-7, 3.24) Washington - Doug Fister (10-3, 2.68)
(SportsNetwork.com) - Have a leaky bullpen? Simple, hand the ball to Doug Fister.
The first-year Washington Nationals pitcher has matched his effectiveness with durability and will take the mound on Wednesday night when the hosts meet the New York Mets in game two of a three-game series at Nationals Park.
Fister has worked at least seven innings in four of his last five starts, which could help a staff of relief pitchers who've been slumping lately in the midst of a solid all-around season.
The bullpen's earned run average of 2.95 is sixth-best in the major leagues, but the Nationals' recent stretch of six losses in nine games has seen the relievers' ERA balloon to 7.48 while opponents have compiled a .380 batting average. In its last two games, including a loss to the Mets in Tuesday's opener, the bullpen has surrendered four runs in 12 hits.
It's been a struggle on offense, too, with Washington scoring just nine runs -- and allowing 28 -- in its last five losses.
"There's no common thread," manager Matt Williams said. "There's no way to say, 'OK, this is because, this is why.' It seems like it's going the wrong way the last couple of days, but we can turn that around."
Fister allowed two runs in seven innings of a hard luck 2-1 loss to Philadelphia in his last start on Friday, which nonetheless was his ninth of the season of seven innings or more.
He's 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA in his last five starts, and was a 6-1 winner in his lone career start against the Mets last season while with the Detroit Tigers.
New York goes with lefty Jonathon Niese, who's lost three in a row since a trip to the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
He hit two batters, allowed three earned runs and threw 87 pitches in eight innings of a 5-1 loss on Friday against San Francisco. He's thrown more than 90 pitches just once in those three post-DL starts.
"We have to get this guy some work," manager Terry Collins said. "If he keeps coming out after five innings or 60 or 70 pitches, he's not going to help us when we really need it in crunch time to where he gets into the 80- and 90- pitch mark. We've got to get some strength in his shoulder."
He'd been unbeaten in five straight starts at Nationals Park before dropping a 5-2 decision there on May 16, when he allowed five runs in four innings.
On Tuesday, Daniel Murphy went 3-for-4 and knocked in a pair of runs in the Mets' 6-1 win.
Murphy backed a rather shaky start out of Zack Wheeler (7-8), who gave up just one run but allowed seven hits and four walks in hard-earned 6 2/3 innings. Wheeler also had an RBI, while David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda each drove in a run for the Mets.
Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (6-8) was charged with four runs on six hits with six strikeouts for the NL East leaders.
08/06 10:49:45 ET