Nelson Figueroa was outstanding in his first start in over 3 1/2 years, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He may not come close to that type of an outing Thursday night, but he’ll try to build on the performance and help the New York Mets sweep a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
Figueroa (1-0, 4.50 ERA) was inserted into the Mets’ (7-6) rotation after Pedro Martinez strained his hamstring during his season debut on April 1, ruling Martinez out 4-6 weeks.
Figueroa, who was either injured, in the minors or playing in Mexico over the last three seasons, filled in nicely Friday, allowing no hits through four innings before exiting after the sixth with only two runs and two hits off him while striking out six in a 4-2 win over Milwaukee.
The stunning performance by the Brooklyn, N.Y. native came in front of many friends and family and was his first major-league start since Sept. 23, 2004, and his first victory as a starter since beating the Brewers on Aug. 15, 2003— both with Pittsburgh.
“I thought I was going to lose it,” Figueroa told the team’s official Web site. “I really did. It was just the culmination of everything—the intensity of the game. This journey has been so incredible, and to go out there and put forth that kind of a performance … it’s storybook-like.”
With the hoopla of that start behind him, the right-hander gets a second consecutive start at Shea Stadium, and his first against the Nationals (4-11) since the team relocated from Montreal after the 2004 season.
He’ll try to help New York complete a sweep of Washington after the offense produced a season-high three homers to power a 5-2 win, a night after a 6-0 victory in the series opener.
The Mets’ Ryan Church, who hit a solo shot Wednesday, has been torrid of late. The left fielder, who was acquired with catcher Brian Schneider from the Nationals for Lastings Milledge in November, has gone 5-for-10 with a homer and six runs scored in the last three games. He’s hitting .340 through 13 games after spending his first four major-league seasons with the Montreal/Washington franchise.
The Nationals will counter with John Lannan (0-2, 6.75), who is looking to help them to their second win in 13 games after opening the season with a three-game winning streak.
The left-hander wasn’t much help on Saturday, getting tagged for six runs and nine hits while walking four in four innings of a 10-2 loss to Atlanta as Washington fell for a ninth time in a row.
“They called for pitches in, and I left them over the plate,” Lannan told the team’s official Web site. “I really didn’t follow the game plan. I have to move on.
“(You are) going to have days where you are going to get hit. I know that, and (I) can move on from that. It’s the mental part, where (I’m) not following what we talked about or what (pitching coach Randy St. Claire) spends so much time teaching us about.”
Lannan allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of his only career start against the Mets, a 7-4 loss on Aug. 18.