With the NL East and home-field advantage throughout the league playoffs already wrapped up, the New York Mets are focusing on getting healthy.
They’ll also look to start building some momentum as they open a four-game series with the last-place Washington Nationals on Friday at Shea Stadium.
The Mets (92-60) clinched the NL East for the first time since 1988 with Monday’s 4-0 win over Florida and have also easily secured home field throughout the NL postseason. St. Louis, owner of the league’s second-best record, is 11 1/2 games behind the Mets with 10 remaining.
The Mets dropped the last two games of their four-game set with the Marlins, including Thursday’s 5-2 defeat. Pedro Martinez, who missed a month with a strained right calf, gave up four runs in five innings and was charged with the loss.
Martinez, however, looked better than he did six days earlier, when he lasted just three innings in his first start back from the injury.
“I’m really close,” he said. “I’m going to push it in the playoffs.”
Catcher Paul Lo Duca sat out with a sore left thumb that has bothered him much of the season, and center fielder Carlos Beltran, who has not played since Sept. 18 because of a minor strain in his upper left quadriceps, was out of the lineup again.
Beltran, hitting .277 with 40 homers and 114 RBIs, had an MRI exam Wednesday that revealed no major problems.
“I will play,” he said of the playoffs. “I won’t miss that. Obviously, it’s good that we clinched so that I have some days to recuperate.”
The Nationals (66-86), who trail the Mets by 26 games in the East, lost for the fourth time in seven games Wednesday, 7-3 to Atlanta. Ryan Zimmerman, who leads major league rookies with 99 RBIs, hit his 19th homer.
Brian Schneider went 1-for-4, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games.
Pedro Astacio (4-5, 6.38 ERA) will start the opener for Washington. He allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 8-5 win over Milwaukee.
The victory was the first since Aug. 15 for Astacio, who went 0-3 with an 11.37 ERA in between wins.
Astacio pitched for the Mets in 2002 and 2003, going 15-13 with a 5.20 ERA in 38 starts. He is 9-6 with a 4.07 ERA in 22 career appearances—19 starts— against his former team, but has not faced New York since 2001.
Astacio is 3-0 with a 4.98 ERA in his last five appearances against New York.
New York will counter with Orlando Hernandez (10-10, 4.85), who gave up two runs in seven innings of a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday, but did not receive a decision. The right-hander, acquired in a May trade with Arizona, is 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in his last four starts and hoping to improve his chances of starting in the playoffs.
“Duque has been there before, so I know what to expect with him,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said.
Hernandez has won both of his starts against the Nationals franchise, posting a 1.59 ERA, but has not faced them since 2000 while with the New York Yankees.