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|10:10 AM PT11:10 AM MT12:10 PM CT1:10 PM ET13:10 ET17:10 GMT1:10 10:10 AM MST12:10 PM EST12:40 PM VEN21:10 UAE12:10 PM CT, July 15, 2018
Citi Field, Flushing, New York Attendance: 26,572
Mets, Nationals seek positive end to underwhelming first half
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets and Washington Nationals have accounted for the last five playoff berths earned by teams from the National League East.
So suffice to say neither squad expected to be digging deep for a positive note to conclude the first half of the season, which they will be doing Sunday in the finale of a four-game series at Citi Field.
Mets rookie Corey Oswalt (0-2, 6.75 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Nationals veteran Jeremy Hellickson (3-1, 3.47 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets earned their second straight win Saturday when Michael Conforto hit a three-run homer and Zack Wheeler pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in more than four years in a 7-4 victory.
The Mets will end a pair of ignoble streaks if they can win a third straight game on Sunday. New York hasn't won a series since a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks from May 18-20 and hasn't won three straight home games since a victory over the Miami Marlins on May 21 capped a four-game streak.
Win or lose on Sunday, the All-Star break will provide a much-needed respite for the Mets (39-54), who hoped to return to the playoffs this year after losing 92 games last season. They reached the World Series in 2015 and made the NL wild card game in 2016 but fell out of contention by going 15-35 since May 22.
"I think everybody's trying to finish this half strong," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said following Saturday's game. "Take a few days off, reset and come back and try to be the team that we need to be, because we haven't been that."
The same can be said for the Nationals (47-48), who have won the last two NL East titles yet need a win on Sunday to reach the All-Star Break at .500. Since falling out of first place June 12, Washington has gone 10-20, the second-worst record in the NL, to fall 6 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.
On Saturday, the Nationals were forced to take solace in mounting a mini-comeback. Washington trailed 7-0 before closing within 7-4 on Matt Adams' two-run homer with two outs in the eighth, but Mets relievers Anthony Swarzak and Jeurys Familia retired the final four batters in order.
"Scored a bunch of runs late, Matt hits the home run," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We fell short, but the guys didn't quit. They played hard, scored some runs late and hopefully (Sunday) we score runs early and often and we come back (Sunday) and win."
Bryce Harper went 1-for-4 and is hitting .214. He is 3-for-13 in the series but also did not run out a grounder in Friday's 4-2 loss, something Martinez discussed with the slugger before Saturday's game.
"I've spoken to Bryce, and that's a conversation that will stay between Bryce and I," Martinez said.
Oswalt took the loss despite pitching impressively in his third big league start Tuesday night, when he allowed three runs on just one hit -- a three-run double by opposing pitcher Aaron Nola -- over a career-high six innings as the Mets fell to the Phillies 3-1.
Hellickson earned the win Tuesday, when he allowed two hits over five scoreless innings as the Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1. It was the 11th time in 12 starts this season Hellickson has lasted fewer than six innings.
Oswalt has never faced the Nationals.
Hellickson is 2-4 with a 7.40 ERA in nine career starts against the Mets. It is his highest ERA against any team he's faced more than five times.
Updated July 14, 2018