Originally posted on The Nats Blog old  |  Last updated 7/17/12

Returning home after a somewhat disappointing four-game series split against the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals (51-36) are set to face the New York Mets (46-43), who have had an even more disappointing stretch of luck lately.

The Mets are riding a four-game losing streak and haven't won a game since the All-Star break after being swept by the Atlanta Braves. The series loss gave the Braves a boost that left them nipping at the heels of the Nationals, while it pushed the Mets from a close third place standing (just 3.5 games behind the Nats) to a much more distant 6.5 games behind.

When they last played each other in June, the Nats had to fight to keep the Mets from unseating them off their first place throne - the Mets were just a half a game away from overtaking them. Now though, wins against the Mets in this series will serve more as a cushion against the looming Braves, who are on a seven-game winning streak and are shaping up to be the Nats most concerning rival.

The Nats have won four of six games against the Mets this season, and only one of those losses has happened at Nationals Park (and for the record, Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound).

Slipping Pitching

June was a much better month for the Mets than what July is shaping up to be. After going 15-13 in June, the Mets had the lowest starting ERA (2.48) of all major league teams for that month. R.A. Dickey (0.93 June ERA), Jon Niese (1.89) and Johan Santana (2.77) were all lights out through the month, and both Chris Young (3.30) and Dillon Gee (3.90) put together solid performances.

But with the change in the calendar there was a definite change in the success of the Mets’ pitching. So far in July the team is just 3-7, and although it is a very small sample size, this month they already have the highest starting ERA in the National League (6.23).

The three starters that the Nationals are slated to see this week are Niese, Young, and Dickey, and all three of them have been experiencing a recent slide.

In his last outing, Niese allowed a rough seven earned runs to the Chicago Cubs, ultimately resulting in a 0-7 loss. Niese was averaging 6.8 strikeouts per start in June, but in two starts in July he has struck out just three apiece.

Through two July starts, Young has already allowed eight earned runs and three homers. In June, he allowed 11 earned runs the whole month and gave up just one home run.

Through both May and June, R.A. Dickey allowed more than two earned runs in a game just twice. Starting on May 27, he didn’t allow a single run to score for five outings. His last two appearances on the mound though, he allowed five earned runs each time.

Like I said, all of this information comes from a very small sample size and shouldn’t be cause for panic from Mets fans. All teams go through slumps, and this is definitely a pretty big slump. A trend is emerging though, and unfortunately for the Mets, the Nationals are going to do their best to see that the trend continues.

Worth Noting

- Although the Nationals will miss what would have been his spot in the pitching rotation, Dillon Gee is out for the season after undergoing surgery to replace a section of damaged artery in his right shoulder. Manager Collins is still unsure who will replace him, but is considering either long man, and former Nats reliever, Miguel Batista or Matt Harvey who is currently pitching for their Triple-A affiliate.

- Ross Detwiler already has two wins this season against the Mets, although one came in relief when he pitched the last two innings of a 12-inning game in June.

- Left fielder Jason Bay is hoping to return to the lineup today after being on the out with a concussion since June 15. Before his injury, Bay was hitting .187 with four home runs and 23 strikeouts in 22 games.

- Lucas Duda's left hamstring has been bothering him, and according to MLB.com, on Saturday manager Terry Collins said he wanted to keep Duda out of the lineup for a few days so he can rest without going on the DL.

Who's hot?

Daniel Murphy (2B) .351 AVG, .368 OBP, .486 SLG, 5 RBI (last 10 games)

Ruben Tejada (SS) .390 AVG, .444 OBP, .439 SLG, 4 RBI (last 10 games)

David Wright (3B) .275 AVG, .356 OBP, .475 SLG, 9 RBI, 2 HR (last 10 games)

Who's not?

Lucas Duda (RF) .152 AVG, .282 OBP, .242 SLG, 11 SO (last 10 games)

R.A. Dickey (SP) 7.50 ERA, .365 AVG, 11 SO, 12 IP (last two starts)

Probable Starters

Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.43 ERA) vs. Jon Niese (7-4, 3.73 ERA)

Jordan Zimmermann (6-6, 2.48 ERA) vs. Chris Young (2-3, 4.28 ERA)

Gio Gonzalez (12-4, 2.93 ERA) vs. R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.66 ERA)

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