With Hernandez making his first career start at RFK Stadium, the Mets will try for yet another sweep road sweep of the Washington Nationals when the teams conclude a three-game series Sunday.
New York (69-53) is in position for its fourth sweep in seven series all-time in Washington, and has won 19 of its last 22 games there. The Mets have won eight of their last 10 games away from Shea Stadium overall, and have the majors’ best road record at 37-26.
Much of New York’s success in Washington is due to stellar pitching, posting a 2.28 ERA and holding the Nationals (55-68) to a .208 batting average in the last 22 games there.
Hernandez (7-4, 3.12 ERA), who has the lowest ERA among Mets starters, will now try to help New York earn its first sweep since taking three games against Oakland from June 22-24. The Mets have won Hernandez’s last seven starts and nine of his last 10. He is 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA in his last seven outings.
The veteran right-hander gave up three runs, five hits and five walks while striking out eight in six innings of a 5-4 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
In two starts against the Nationals this season, Hernandez is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA and is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA in five career starts against them.
New York has won five of six, scoring a total of 45 runs during that stretch. Even with slugger Carlos Delgado sidelined with a hyperextended left knee, the Mets have scored six runs or more in each of their last three games. Mets manager Willie Randolph said Delgado—hitting .254 with 18 home runs and 68 RBIs—may play Sunday.
New York continues to struggle with injuries, putting Ramon Castro on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with lower back pain and purchasing the contract of 41-year-old Sandy Alomar Jr. from Triple-A New Orleans. Castro joins starting catcher Paul Lo Duca, who’s on the DL with an injured hamstring.
“I’m sure DiFelice will probably get the lion’s share of the work,” Randolph said.
New York now will face promising right-hander Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.41 ERA), who was the most consistent starter for a young Washington staff prior to missing three months because of a sprained right elbow.
Hill is coming off his first start since being activated from the DL, giving up one hit and striking out a career-high seven in six shutout innings of a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
The right-hander earned a win against New York on April 14, allowing two runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 6-2 Nationals win in his first career appearance against the Mets.
Hill will try to spark a Nationals pitching staff that allowed 13 runs and 22 hits in its last two games. Washington has also been struggling at the plate, scoring a total of 14 runs in its last five games
Wily Mo Pena joined the Nationals on Saturday after being acquired from Boston in a trade Friday. He went 1-for-4 with two runs.
“We need to get him some at-bats,” Washington rookie manager Manny Acta said. “When guys are bench players in the American League, you don’t have the luxury to pinch-hit them almost every day like we do in the National League.”
With the addition of Pena, the Nationals designated Ryan Langerhans for assignment. Langerhans batted .153 this season with Washington, Oakland and Atlanta.