5 things to watch as Mets and Nationals play five-game series in Washington, D.C.

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Francisco Lindor Pete Alonso chest bump June 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Francisco Lindor Pete Alonso chest bump June 2021 in Washington, D.C.

The Mets and Nationals play a five-game series starting on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Here are five things to watch...

The Nats are reeling

The Nats, who traded most of their key contributors ahead of the deadline as they embraced a rebuild, have lost five games in a row and 15 of their last 20 as they finish out the season with a makeshift roster that has Juan Soto and not a lot else.

The Mets have so far taken advantage against this version of the Nats, winning five of the last six games against them.

For the Mets to keep surging in the NL East, they'll have to take care of business this weekend.

The state of the NL East

New York enters play on Friday trailing the Atlanta Braves by 5.0 games for first place and 3.0 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies.

As the Mets play their five-game series against the Nats, the Braves continue their series in Colorado against the Rockies before facing the Nats. Meanwhile, the Phillies have a weekend series against the Marlins before traveling to Milwaukee to face the Brewers.

While the Mets have surged lately, they're still not in an enviable position. But a strong weekend against the Nationals could make things a lot more interesting.

Is Francisco Lindor heating up?

Lindor hasn't had much success since being activated from the IL, but he has been hitting into some hard luck.

Jul 11, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) hits a two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Citi Field.
Jul 11, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) hits a two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Citi Field.

That included Thursday against the Marlins, when he delivered an RBI double to deep left field in the fourth inning but was robbed in the sixth when he hit a missile to right field.

The key is that Lindor is hitting the ball well, and that should eventually translate to more results than he's gotten so far since coming back.

The Stro Show

Marcus Stroman has continued to be the Mets' most reliable starting pitcher with Jacob deGrom out, and has allowed more than two earned runs only twice in his last nine starts.

Stroman has pitched very well against the Nats the last two times he's faced them (on Aug. 12 and Aug. 28), allowing just three runs in 11.1 innings while walking three and striking out 13.

Stroman is scheduled to get the ball on Saturday in one of the games of the doubleheader.

Aloha, Mr. Hand

Brad Hand, whom the Mets claimed on waivers on Thursday, is expected to be activated during the Nats series.

Hand began the season with Washington before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, who DFA'd him earlier this week.

The Mets have plenty of high leverage relievers, including Edwin Diaz, Aaron Loup, Seth Lugo, and Trevor May, but it's likely that Hand will make his debut at some point this weekend -- and it could come in an important spot.