New York (83-66) at Washington (67-83)

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  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Tue Sep 18, 2007
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New York Mets manager Willie Randolph has called John Maine the team’s stopper this season. On Tuesday night, Maine will try once again to stop the Washington Nationals from crossing home plate.

Looking to keep his season-long scoreless string over the Nationals intact, Maine takes the mound for the Mets as they try to avoid matching their longest skid this season while shoring up a defense that has posted a franchise-record 10 errors in its last two contests.

With a 12-4 defeat Monday night, New York (83-66) lost its fourth in a row and had its NL East lead over Philadelphia reduced to 2 1/2 games when the Phillies held off St. Louis 13-11 later in the night. The Mets had a five-game skid from June 9-13 and again from Aug. 26-30.

“It needs to turn around quickly or we’re going home,” Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca said.

Maine (15-9, 3.72 ERA) is 3-1 in his career versus the Nationals (67-83), and the right-hander has had no problem shutting them down this season regardless of the site.

On April 29, he pitched three-hit ball over seven innings and was backed by a solo homer from Carlos Beltran in a 1-0 road win. Exactly three months later in New York, Maine gave up a first-inning single en route to a 5-0 triumph in a game shortened to 4 1/2 innings by rain.

“He’s been our stopper and that’s what stoppers do,” Randolph said following that contest.

Maine’s nine road wins this season ties him for second with NL strikeout and ERA leader Jake Peavy of San Diego, and 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb of Arizona. Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs leads the league with 11 road wins in 2007.

Maine didn’t get a decision in his last start despite a strong effort. Though he pitched with a blister on his finger, Maine allowed a run and three hits over six innings on Wednesday in a 4-3 home win over Atlanta.

The blister problem could be the root of a second-half fade by Maine, who is tied with Oliver Perez for the team lead in wins. Maine was 10-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 17 first-half starts, with the Mets going 12-5. After the All-Star break, though, he’s 4-5 with a 5.46 ERA and New York has split his 12 starts.

New York’s fielding woes continued with four more errors Monday after tying a franchise record with six miscues in a 10-6 loss to the Phillies on Sunday. With an error Saturday in a 5-3 defeat to Philadelphia, the Mets have also tied the franchise mark for most errors in a three-game span originally set in their expansion season from Aug. 24-26, 1962.

Over the last five games, the Mets have committed 13 errors, three by All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes.

“That’s not how we play the game. Hopefully we’ll get out of it—the sooner the better,” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

Another reason for the Mets’ slide could be the loss of first baseman Carlos Delgado, who’s been out since Sept. 4 with a strained right hip flexor.

Delgado has just 22 homers this season after hitting at least 30 each of the last 10 years. Jeff Conine, who’s seen some of the playing time at first base in Delgado’s absence, is hitting .059 (1-for-17) in his last seven games.

Washington’s Joel Hanrahan (4-3, 5.83) hasn’t won since beating San Francisco on Sept. 1 at home. In two starts after that, the right-hander has lasted only 3 1-3 innings each time and allowed a total of eight runs and 10 hits with 10 walks.

He yielded three runs, six hits and six walks in a 5-4 loss in 12 innings to Florida on Wednesday.

“Very disappointing effort,” Hanrahan told the Nationals’ official Web site. “I’m still working on things, and I still need to get there.”

Hanrahan made his major league debut on July 28 against the Mets, and gave up three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in six innings. He failed to get a decision as Washington posted a 6-5 win in New York.

Center fielder Nook Logan had three hits and three runs Monday for Washington.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Maine MIA vs. J. Hanrahan DET
15-10 Record 5-3
3.91 ERA 6.00
180 K 43
75 BB 38
1.27 WHIP 1.90