Nationals-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

Plating runs at Citi Field has been an ongoing problem for the New York Mets, and little suggests they will have any better luck in facing Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, who owns the majors' best road ERA.

The Nationals, though, might not be able to get much going offensively, either.

Seeking its first single-season seven-game winning streak in New York, NL East-leading Washington will likely have its hands full Tuesday night against R.A. Dickey.

In Monday's opener, Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond homered to lead the Nationals (87-54) to a 5-1 victory. Washington improved to 12-4 in the season series, and pushed its lead over Atlanta in the East back up to 6 1/2 games.

Gio Gonzalez allowed a run over six innings to became baseball's first 19-game winner and strengthen his case in the NL Cy Young Award race.

Dickey (18-4, 2.64 ERA) now gets his chance to impress voters.

The right-hander had a 1.84 ERA in winning his two starts in Washington this season, but allowed five runs in six innings of a 5-2 home loss to the Nationals on July 24.

Zimmerman, who has homered in three straight and is batting .328 with five home runs and 15 RBIs during a 14-game hitting streak, hasn't been fooled by Dickey's knuckleball. He is 5 for 10 with a homer and double against him this season.

Bryce Harper hasn't fared as well, going 0 for 10 with six strikeouts, and isn't expected to start.

"In, out, up, down, back and forth, light, heavy, tried it all. Just can't hit the guy,'' Harper said.

Dickey didn't have his best stuff in St. Louis on Wednesday, allowing two runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings, but won 6-2. He became the first Mets pitcher to win 18 games since Frank Viola (20-12) and Dwight Gooden (19-7) both did it in 1990.

Dickey says he's simply focused on getting victory No. 19, but admits he has thought about the 20-win mark, too.

"I hope to win beyond 20," he said.

If he can continue to pitch the way he has lately, it certainly seems possible. Dickey has a 1.19 ERA in winning his last three starts, and has yielded two runs or fewer in six of eight outings.

Getting some help from his offense might be the issue.

The Mets (65-76) tied a team record Monday by scoring three or fewer runs for the 11th straight home game, matching the mark last done in 1979. They've gone 106 straight innings at Citi Field without scoring more than one run.

New York, losers in 20 of 24 at home, has also totaled nine runs in losing its last six to the Nationals in Flushing - the first time it's dropped six straight home games in the series since 1979 against the Expos.

Solving its offensive woes against Zimmermann (10-8, 2.99) seems unlikely.

Against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, Zimmermann yielded two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 9-2 win. He retired 13 of 14 at one point and finished with nine strikeouts.

He shouldn't have trouble building on that Tuesday. Zimmermann is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts against the Mets this season, with Washington winning each time.

Taking the ball at Citi Field should also benefit Zimmermann, considering he leads the majors with a 2.16 road ERA.

Although Zimmermann has fared well against New York, David Wright has had his number this year, going 5 for 8 with two homers and a double.

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