The New York Mets came through with a huge night at the plate to pull into a first-place tie in the NL East.
With one of the league’s best pitchers of late starting their next game, the Mets might not need another big offensive performance to claim sole possession of the top spot.
After using their highest run total in six weeks to win for the fifth time in seven games, the Mets turn to Oliver Perez as they try to complete a three-game road sweep of the lowly Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
New York (64-56) had 13 hits in its 12-0 win over Washington on Wednesday night, recording its highest run total since a 15-6 win over the New York Yankees on June 27. It was the Mets’ first win by more than three runs since July 27.
“It was a good night for the manager,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel, whose team pulled into a first-place tie with Philadelphia. “We needed to have an offensive night like this. That is huge for us.”
Manuel will take 12 runs in any game, but he’s probably learned that his team doesn’t need a lot of offense with Perez (8-7, 3.90 ERA) on the mound.
The left-hander leads the majors with a 1.71 ERA since June 29, and he’s struck out 55 in 52 2-3 innings during that eight-start stretch. The Mets are 6-2 in those games despite the fact that they’ve given Perez an average of 2.22 runs of support.
New York scored three runs for Perez in his last outing Friday, when he held fellow NL East contender Florida to two hits while striking out eight in seven innings of a 3-0 victory.
“I’m thinking every game is important for us,” said Perez, who’s 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA in six career starts against Washington. “When I pitch, I try to think the other team is the best in baseball.”
That could be a challenge against the Nationals (44-77), who have been outscored 39-8 during a six-game losing streak. They’re batting .190 (40-for-210) with 56 strikeouts during the skid.
“(This game) is best remembered for forgetting,” Wednesday’s starter Jason Bergmann said. “We’ll play tomorrow.”
Collin Balester (2-4, 4.66) will get the start for the Nationals, who have lost five of the rookie right-hander’s first seven outings. Balester gave up four runs in five innings of a 5-0 loss to Milwaukee on Friday—the first loss of Washington’s current losing streak.
“The first couple innings, I was trying to do too much, and you can’t pitch that way,” he said.
Balester is making his first career appearance against the Mets, who are hoping to complete their second sweep of the Nationals this season. New York took all three games between the division rivals at Shea Stadium from April 15-17, and is 7-4 in the 2008 series.
The Mets’ success against the Nationals could continue if rookie Daniel Murphy stays hot. The 23-year-old outfielder went 3-for-6 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs Wednesday, and is batting .467 (14-for-30) with two homers, eight RBIs and seven runs since he was called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Aug. 2.
“He is getting it done,” Mets catcher Brian Schneider said. “More than anything he is learning, learning the pitchers and learning what to do in the clubhouse. I know it has been a good experience for him. We can’t expect him to do anything more.”