After splitting a doubleheader on Saturday to keep the season series tied, the Mets and Nationals wrap up a four-game set at Shea Stadium on Sunday.
Despite its 13-game advantage in the division standings, NL East-leading New York (58-46) has lost four of its eight meetings with last-place Washington (45-59). The Mets, who held a 12-6 edge in last year’s season series, have lost seven of 10 home games against the Nationals since May 2, 2006.
The Mets won the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader 3-1 behind seven strong innings from starter Orlando Hernandez.
Washington bounced back with a 6-5 victory in the nightcap, thanks to a clutch hit from outfielder Ryan Langerhans. Langerhans, who had been stuck in an 0-for-16 rut, broke a 3-all tie with an RBI single as part of the Nationals’ three-run eighth inning. It was Langerhans’ first hit in 11 at-bats against the Mets this year, after batting .333 (23-for-69) in his career against them before this season.
“It’s just one hit but it gives me confidence,” he said. “It’s been a while since I had a hit to the opposite field. I’ll take it and run with it.”
Washington has won three of four games overall and is 11-7 since July 7.
But the win wasn’t the biggest news of the day for the Nationals, who agreed with first baseman Dmitri Young on a $10 million, two-year contract extension through 2009. The deal caps an amazing turnaround for the All-Star first baseman, who signed a minor league contract with Washington in February after a tumultuous year that included an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, and being hospitalized for diabetes.
“It wasn’t that hard because both sides were interested in getting it done,” said Young, batting .330 with nine homers and 54 RBIs. “For me, this is an organization that believed in me when my chips were down. I have a great support system here and I see the good things that are happening in this organization.”
Young, though, has struck out in all three of his career at-bats against Sunday’s New York starter John Maine (11-5, 3.04 ERA). The right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.40 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals. He held them to three hits in seven shutout innings in a 1-0 win on April 29.
On Tuesday, Maine held Pittsburgh to two runs and five hits in seven innings of New York’s 8-4 victory - his fifth win in six decisions.
Maine could be without his regular battery mate on Sunday after All-Star catcher Paul Lo Duca suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday’s night game. Lo Duca said the injury wasn’t serious, but he’ll go for an MRI exam. If he can’t play, the Mets will likely recall a catcher from the minors.
Washington’s Billy Traber (2-1, 4.09) will make his second start of the year. Traber, a reliever for most of the season, made his first start on July 20, suffering a 3-1 loss to Colorado after allowing two runs - one earned - and three hits in four innings.
The left-hander appeared out of the bullpen on Tuesday, giving up a run and two hits in three innings against Philadelphia.
Traber has allowed only one run in 11 1-3 career innings against the Mets spanning four games, all in 2006. In his lone start against them, he held them to one run and four hits in seven innings of a 2-1 victory on Aug. 11.