The Mets travel to Nationals Park for the first time this season today.
After wrapping up their four game set with the Cardinals yesterday, the Mets open up a three game series with the Nationals tonight in Washington. To preview the series and get a feel for how the Nationals season has gone so far, I spoke with Will Yoder from The Nats Blog. I asked Will several questions about the Nationals of late and here is what he had to say:
Me: The Nationals started of the season as one of the hottest teams in the Majors, and they still are in first place. Who would you say have been the MVPs of the Nationals so far and why?
Will: On the mound, as good as Stephen Strasburg has been this year, I would have to say that Gio Gonzalez has been the Washington Nationals most valuable hurler through the first quarter of the season. The team took a big gamble on him when they sent four of their top 10 prospects to the Oakland Athletics to acquire the lefty, but he has been nothing short of dominant early on this year. His curveball has been devastating and he has established newfound confidence and accuracy in his fastball.
At the plate, one could make the argument that Adam LaRoche was the MVP early on this season. While he has tapered off in recent weeks, he carried the Nationals’ offense during a period when they were one of the worst hitting teams in baseball. This is quite an accomplishment considering most had hoped he would not be the everyday first baseman leading into 2012.
Me: The Nationals look like they have had their fair share of injuries so thus far. Who has the team missed the most and who has stepped up in the biggest way?
Will: It’s hard to say who they have missed the most, but the one person whose absence you can quantify has been that of closer Drew Storen. The team has attempted to go closer by committee, but between Henry Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard, and Brad Lidge, but have had six blown saves between them already. That’s seven potential wins the club has let slip through their fingers.
Me: It looks like Zimmermann, Jackson and Wang are slated to pitch vs NY. How have their seasons gone so far?
Will: Zimmermann had a breakout year in 2011 by posting a 3.18 ERA in 26 starts, and he has followed it up in 2012 with a really solid start, posting just a 2.80 ERA in 10 outings. He’s easily one of the more underrated young right-handers in the game. Jackson has been a great one-year pickup for Washington. He’s on pace to have one of the best years of his career, and should be setting himself up for a big contract next winter, whether that be with Washington or somewhere else. Wang has just returned from injury. He allowed four runs in four innings in his first start last week, but the Nats have high expectations for him this year.
Me: Mets fans have really enjoyed Terry Collins so far this season. How do Nationals fans view Davey Johnson?
Will: Nationals fans are as happy to have Davey Johnson around as he is to have another chance at managing. After Jim Riggleman abandoned the club last year following one of their biggest win streaks in franchise history, the team desperately needed strong and proven leadership. With Johnson’s past experience with the Mets and the Orioles, the Nats have found their man.
Me: Who has been hot as of late and who is slumping for Washington right now?
Will: Bryce Harper has been tearing the cover off the ball as of late. In the month of May he hit .271/.355/.505 with four home runs and 21 runs scored. His energy has absolutely sparked the team’s offense as a whole. On the flip side, Adam LaRoche has cooled off after a sizzling start to the season. In April he hit .329/.415/.549 with four home runs. In May he hit just .247/.350/.506.
Pitching match ups for the series as of right now are: Chris Young vs Jordan Zimmermann, Miguel Batista vs Edwin Jackson, and RA Dickey vs Chein-Ming Wang. If RA Dickey is unable to pitch on short rest, expect Hefner in the series finale.
This series looks like it will be an exciting one, and it is very important in the standings.
Big thanks to Will Yoder from The Nats Blog for chatting with me. Check out his blog, he does a great job covering the Nationals. His blog can be found here. Will is also on twitter @TheNatsBlog.