Washington (69-87) at New York (87-68)

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Temp: 22° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Mon Sep 24, 2007
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The NL East-leading New York Mets hope the lowly Washington Nationals don’t give them trouble this time as the teams open a three-game set Monday.

New York (87-68) squandered a pair of early four-run leads in losing two of three contests at Washington (69-87) last week. The Mets haven’t fared better at Shea Stadium, splitting six games with the Nationals.

The two defeats last week were part of a season high-tying five-game losing streak, which reduced New York’s division lead from a commanding seven games to only 1 1/2 on second-place Philadelphia. The Mets, though, built back their margin to 2 1/2 games on Sunday with a 7-6, 11-inning win at Florida while the Nationals defeated the Phillies 5-3.

“The way we’ve battled is very pleasing, to pick up a game, knock another day off the schedule and just get back home,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We’re looking forward to it. We get a chance to hopefully celebrate with our fans.”

New York plays its final seven games at home, and its magic number to clinch its second consecutive division title is five. The Mets also have one game in hand on the Phillies, who are idle Monday.

The Mets could also benefit from outfielder Moises Alou continuing his late-season surge. Alou established a franchise record by extending his hitting streak to 27 games - also the longest in the majors this year - by going 2-for-6 on Sunday. The 41-year-old left fielder is batting .410 (34-for-83) with 11 RBIs during his streak, and went 7-for-11 against the Nationals last week.

Third baseman David Wright, the previous holder of New York’s record hitting streak, is also on a tear recently. The All-Star has gone 13-for-27 (.481) with seven RBIs in the last six games. He is hitting .396 with 12 RBIs in 15 games against Washington this season.

The Mets hope Mike Pelfrey (3-7, 5.24 ERA) can help them get closer to securing a playoff spot by winning his fourth consecutive decision. The 23-year-old right-hander has won his last three decisions with a 3.31 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 16 1-3 innings.

Pelfrey led the Mets to their only victory over Washington last week, allowing three runs and nine hits in five innings of an 8-4 victory on Wednesday to snap the five-game skid.

He has been just as good against the Nationals in two home starts this season, giving up five runs and 14 hits in 11 2-3 innings, but not factoring in either decision with only four total runs of support.

The fourth-place Nationals hope Matt Chico (5-9, 4.74) can win his first game since July 31. He is 0-3 with a 4.78 ERA in the seven starts since that 6-3 win over Cincinnati.

Two of those defeats have come against the Mets, including Wednesday’s loss to Pelfrey. The 24-year-old rookie left-hander allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of that outing, a stark contrast to his first outing against the Mets on April 27, when he yielded two runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-3 win.

Chico has struggled against Alou, who is 5-for-8 with a solo home run against him.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Chico LAD vs. M. Pelfrey Min
7-9 Record 3-8
4.63 ERA 5.57
94 K 45
74 BB 39
1.54 WHIP 1.71

Scoreboard

Monday, Sep 24