There where two pretty interesting series that opened this Labor Day. The New York Mets traveled to Washington to play the Nationals in a 3 game series and in another three game series the Chicago Cubs went on the road to play the St. Louis Cardinals. So far the visiting teams have managed to win the first 2 games in these series with the series finales being Wednesday. No matter what the outcome is in today’s game the Mets will have put some more distance between themselves and the Nationals and while it doesn’t look like the Cubs can catch the Cardinals they have cut into that division lead with this series. Let’s look closer.
This was suppose to be the series where the Nationals showed that they where the team everyone predicted they’d be at the start of the season and eat into that Mets lead in the National League East, but it hasn’t worked that way. The Nationals had Max Schrerzer starting Game 1; who they paid quite a bit of money this off season to win these type of games. Mets starter Jon Niese was giving a 2-run lead in the Top of the 2nd as Michael Conforto (6) and Kelly Johnson (13) both hit solo home runs off Schrerzer.The Mets added a run in the Top of the 4th inning as Yoenis Cespedes 31st home run of the season was upheld on review; 3-0 Mets. In the bottom of the 4th the Nationals got it all back and then some as Wilson Ramos hit a grand slam to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead. Jayson Werth also doubled in a run to give the Nationals a 5-3 lead after 4. Now this is the point where Schrerzer is suppose to take over the game and get his team a big win to start the series, but that didn’t happen. The Mets came back with solo runs in the 5th and 6th innings to tie the game 5-5 . That ended Schrerzer’s night after 102 pitches and he gets a no decision. The Mets took advantage of the Nationals bullpen combination of Blake Treinen, Felipe Rivero, Casey Janssen and Matt Thornton in the top of the 7th for 3 runs to make the score 8-5 which is how it ended. So with their ace on the mound the Nationals where unable to gain any ground in Game 1.
Last night (Tuesday) it was Jordan Zimmerman facing Matt Harvey. Now there have been a lot of talk about Harvey’s what seems to be self imposed innings limit looming. You had to wonder if it would affect him mentally and even though he’ll say it had nothing to do with his performance he went out and had one of his worst outings of the season. Washington jumped on Harvey right away scoring twice in the 1st inning and once in the 2nd. The Mets where able to get a run in the top of the 2nd; so it was 3-1 Nationals after 2 and that’s how it stayed until the bottom of the 6th. Michael Taylor singled to center with the bases loaded and with the help of a Cespedes error all 4 runners scored making it 7-1 Nationals and it looked like the series would be even at a game apiece. Erik Goeddel came in to finish the inning for Harvey who was done after 5 1/3rd and giving up 7 earned runs. Zimmerman was also taken out of the game in the 6th officially pitching 5 2/3rd innings before turning it over to the Nationals bullpen. Treinen started the 7th and he struggled again giving up 3 runs. Rivero relieved him, but couldn’t get anyone out and was charged with 2 runs. Drew Storen was next out of the Nationals bullpen, but the former closer had issues to and walked in the game tying run before getting out of the inning. So it’s 7-7 after 7 innings and Harvey’s teammates got him off the hook. Jonathan Papelbon entered the game in the top of the 8th with the game still tied 7-7. Papelbon got the forst 2 outs of the inning and then it was the pitchers spot due up. Kirk Nieuwenhuis pinch hit for Addison Reed and hit Papelbon’s 2nd pitch of the at bat into the right center field seats to give the Mets an 8-7 lead. Tyler Clippard pitched a 1,2,3 8th and while Jeurys Familia did give up a single and a walk in the bottom of the 9th he was able to close the game out for the Mets and give them a win in the 2nd game of the series.
So it’s Game 3 tonight and it is as close to a must win for Washington as there is in baseball. While a win would help them knock a game off of the Mets 6 game lead in the division just from a mental stand point a win is important. Don’t forget that these two teams end the regular season with a 3 game series in New York October 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Washinton will send Steven Strasburg to the mound to try and avoid the sweep tonight. While Strasburg’s season numbers aren’t great 8-6 with a 4.35 E.R.A. in 18 starts; 4 of his last 5 starts have been very good. While he did struggle in his last outing against the Miami Marlins he’ll need to find that form from those 4 starts before that to get the Nationals a win tonight. The Mets will counter Strasburg with last seasons Rookie of the Year Jacob deGroom on the mound for them. deGroom has been good all season long for the Mets. He’s 12-7 with a 2.40 E.R.A. in 26 starts; so the Nationals have their work cut out for them. Now even if the Mets sweep this series they’re still not home free in the N.L. East, but it would make quite the statement with under 25 games left to go in the season.
The Cubs went into St. Louis in 3rd place and they’ll leave there in 3rd place. Chicago is 6 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central and while they might be able to pass the Pittsburgh Pirates for that 1st wild card spot it will be very difficult for them to catch St. Louis at the top of the division. What is interesting is how the first 2 games of this series has played out.
Lance Lynn made the start for St. Louis in Game 1. St. Louis has had the best pitching staff in baseball this season, but Lynn lasted just 2 1/3rd innings giving up 6 runs on 7 hits and the Cubs never looked back as they cruised to a 9-0 victory. Overall the Cubs got 12 hits on the night against the Cardinals pitching staff with 4 extra base hits. Dexter Fowler doubled and homered, Addison Russell also homered while Anthony Rizzo doubled. What may be the biggest take away from Game 1 for the Cubs is the fact that Dan Haren pitched 7 scoreless innings. Haren did give up 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5 to even his record up at 9-9. Haren hasn’t been sharp for the Cubs since they picked him up from the Miami marlins at the trade deadline; so could this outing turn the corner for Haren?
While the score of Game 2 an 8-5 victory for the Cubs looks like a closer game it really wasn’t. The Cubs had an 8-0 lead before the Cardinals finally got to Jason Hammel and Justin Grimm for 5 runs in the bottom of the 7th to tighten the game up at 8-5. A Cubs bullpen combination of Clayton Richard, Fernando Rodney, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon who picked up his 27th save they ended the Cardinals scoring over the last 2 2/3rd innings to get the Cubs their 2nd win in a row this series. It was another rough outing for a Cardinals top starter as Michael Wacha gave up 6 runs on 6 hits over 4 innings while walking 3 and giving 2 home runs; to Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
As the Cubs go for the sweep this afternoon they turn to Jon Lester on the mound to get the job done. While the Cubs have had a very positive season Lester has to be the biggest disappointment in it. Over his 27 starts this season he is 9-10 with an E.R.A. of 3.59. Not the kind of numbers he was expected to out up when he was signed for 6 years and $155 million this past off season. St. Louis will send out Carlos Martinez to try and avoid the sweep. Martinez is 13-7 in 25 starts with a 3.04 E.R.A. It not a must win or anything close to that for the Cardinals, but what a confidence builder this series has to have been for the Cubs. The winner of the wild card game will face St. Louis in the NLDS and if the Cubs can get by the Pirates in that wild card game they’d be hosted by the Cardinals and how nice is it for a young team to go into a place like St. Louis and not just win a series, but sweep it.
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