Mets, Nationals begin five-game series in Washington

MLB

Edwin Diaz is back in form for the resurgent New York Mets, who begin a five-game series against the host Washington Nationals on Friday.

The 27-year-old right-hander recorded his 28th save on Friday in a 4-3 victory as the Mets completed a sweep of the Miami Marlins.

Diaz has been superb since blowing three consecutive save chances in mid-July, going 9-for-9 in save opportunities with a 1.13 ERA and 23 strikeouts against three walks in 16 innings.

The Mets (66-67) look to build on their momentum during this weekend’s series, which includes a doubleheader on Saturday. New York has won four in a row, and that doesn’t include the Mets’ rally for another Tuesday in the completion of a suspended game.

Washington (55-77) has dropped five in a row, including a 7-6 loss to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. The Nationals led 6-0 before allowing seven runs in the final four innings.

One bright spot was the play of Nationals right fielder Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with a home run, four RBIs and a stolen base.

“It’s pretty tough. I’m the kind of guy that likes to win,” Soto said. “But it is what it is. We’ve been trying so hard. I know those guys, they’re trying. Those pitchers, they’re trying. It’s just not going our way.”

Washington is giving an extended look to 26-year-old Lane Thomas, who has started nine of the Nationals’ past 11 games in center field.

Thomas, who belted his first home run of the season on Thursday, figures to stick in the lineup after Victor Robles was optioned to Triple-A Rochester earlier this week.

The Nationals are hoping for a strong outing Friday from left-hander Sean Nolin (0-2, 6.57 ERA), who is facing the Mets for the second time this week. He gave up two runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings on Saturday.

“He threw the ball well,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He threw some good changeups, some really good changeups, some breaking balls, a real slow eephus a couple times and utilized his fastball when he needed to. I thought he threw the ball a lot better than I saw in his last outing.”

The 31-year-old rookie has allowed a total of nine runs in 12 1/3 innings in his first three starts with the Nationals.

New York will counter with veteran Rich Hill (6-6, 4.11 ERA), who lost his second straight start on Aug. 27.

The 41-year-old left-hander allowed two runs on five hits over five innings in the loss to Washington and ended the month with a 4.15 ERA in five outings covering 21 2/3 innings.

Ryan Zimmerman is 7-for-14 with two homers against Hill, who is 2-4 with a 4.64 ERA in 10 career games (seven starts) against the Nationals.

New York’s lineup has received a spark from leadoff hitter Jonathan Villar, who homered in Thursday’s win and is batting .419 (13-for-31) with two homers and four RBIs over his past nine games.

The Mets made a move to improve their bullpen on Thursday by claiming veteran reliever Brad Hand off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 31-year-old left-hander is a three-time All-Star who produced a 4.21 ERA in 52 appearances for Washington and Toronto this season.

He began the season with the Nationals before being traded to the Blue Jays, who designated him for assignment earlier this week after he posted a 7.27 ERA in 11 outings with Toronto.

–Field Level Media

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