Though New York (44-35) is two games behind division leader Atlanta, the Mets have struggled against the East’s weaker teams, going 8-14 against Washington and Florida. They fell to 3-6 against Washington after a 2-1 loss Thursday.
“We all think that every game is important, just because Atlanta is playing so well,” Niese told the Mets’ official website. “Even for the Wild Card, we need to win every game we can.”
The Mets have lost five of six on the road and five of eight overall. Another solid start from Niese (5-2, 3.84 ERA) could help New York avoiding losing for the eighth time in nine games at Washington (35-45).
Trying for a fifth straight win, the left-hander is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts since returning from the disabled list for a strained right hamstring.
Niese, though, struggled in his only career start against the Nationals— giving up six runs and walking five over 4 1-3 innings—but he did not factor in the decision of an 8-6 win May 11.
Niese is going to have to find a way to win without leadoff hitter Jose Reyes(notes), who will miss his third consecutive game because of tightness in his lower back. In his last 20 games, the shortstop is batting .372 and hit five of his six home runs in that span.
“It is difficult,” Reyes said. “I don’t want to miss any games. But it is what it is. I have to take care of this because I know what happened to me last year trying to be in the lineup.”
“You don’t want to get away from what you do,” Zimmerman said. “You kind of take what they give you.”
Though Zimmerman has an RBI in each of his last three games against the Mets, he is batting .161 against them this season.
Nationals rookie Luis Atilano(notes) (6-4, 4.33) makes his third start against the Mets in this contest. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.99 ERA versus New York, but allowed seven runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-7 home loss May 20.
Atilano, however, is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his last two outings overall. He allowed three runs in seven innings of a 4-3 loss at Baltimore on Sunday.