As awful as the second half of the season has been for the New York Mets, playing the Miami Marlins has brought out the best in them.
David Wright hopes facing Ricky Nolasco continues to do the same for him.
The one team the Mets have swept over the past three months is Miami, and they could do it again Sunday as the slumping Wright takes on a pitcher he's dominated.
New York was a half-game out of the second wild-card spot at the All-Star break but has gone 22-43 to exit the playoff chase. The Mets entered this series 4-24 at home following the break but now could win three straight at Citi Field for the first time since a four-game run June 18-22.
The only sweep New York (68-83) has had anywhere since mid-June was a three-game set at Miami from Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The Marlins (66-86) haven't had one since the break, and they've lost 19 of 28 to replace the Mets in the NL East basement.
New York has held Miami to 11 runs while winning the last six matchups, equaling its longest win streak in this rivalry's 18-year history.
Wright is 0 for 8 in this series as part of a 3-for-27 slump, dropping his average to a season-worst .305. The All-Star third baseman, four hits shy of Ed Kranepool's franchise record of 1,418, has been limited to two homers and 12 RBIs over his last 50 games.
"He knows how important he is to this club and is probably the one guy who said 'this is my team now.' So he's expanded the strike zone a bit," manager Terry Collins told the team's official website. "But that's what I love about him, he knows he's got to be 'Mr. Reliable,' and he wants to be that guy."
He's certainly been reliable against Nolasco. Wright has more homers off him - five - than any other pitcher and has hit .400 (24 for 60) against the right-hander. He's 6 for 13 versus Nolasco since the start of last season, including a homer when the Mets last faced him May 12.
Nolasco (12-12, 4.42 ERA) was tagged for six runs in 4 2-3 innings of that 9-3 defeat. He's 0-2 with a 4.62 ERA in his last four starts versus New York - all Marlins losses.
He had won three straight starts, including two shutouts, before struggling last Sunday in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to Cincinnati. Nolasco surrendered a season-high 10 hits and three runs in five innings.
"Obviously, this was not my best day," he said. "... I just tried to go as deep as I could."
New York counters with Chris Young (4-8, 4.37), owner of a 3.06 ERA this month but with one win in his last seven starts - 5-1 at Miami on Sept. 2.
The injury-plagued right-hander, who didn't make his season debut until June 5 following shoulder surgery, is making his 19th start - his most in one year since 2007.
"It hasn't been an easy road. There's been a lot of challenges," Young said. "I've had some bad luck and hopefully that's behind me."
Young is 0-4 versus the Marlins despite a 3.86 ERA, and New York has lost all eight starts he's made against them.
Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for 5 with two homers against Young this year, but his status is uncertain after missing a fifth straight game Saturday due to a strained side muscle.