Mets on the Mound: Previewing New York's Starters Against the Nationals

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IApril 9, 2010

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 07:  Starting pitcher Oliver Perez #46 of the New York Mets pitches against the Washington Nationals at Tradition Field on March 7, 2010 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

After an Opening Day victory against the Florida Marlins, the Mets dropped the following two games to start the season 1-2.

With the exception of last night, the team showed that it is capable of scoring runs. The preseason idea that the Mets will remain in a lot of games if their pitching is at least serviceable appears to be holding true.

With that in mind, the Mets will turn to essentially their No. 2 and No. 3 starters Friday and Saturday for the first two games against the Washington Nationals.

Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez will need to be strong this year if the Mets are to think about challenging for the NL East crown. They will both need to come out of the gates flying, and a start at home to the Nats may be just what the doctor ordered.

Here's a look at the three men who will be taking the mound in this series for Jerry Manuel's Amazin's.


Two Good, Two Bad

Pelfrey will get the start on Friday against Washington at Citi Field. He is 3-5 in 12 career starts against the Nats, and his 3.98 ERA is almost a run better than against any other National League East opponent.

Let's hope his 0-4 spring, where he surrendered eight home runs in 26.1 innings, is behind him.

Pelfrey has had success against Nationals cleanup hitter Adam Dunn over the years. Dunn is just 3-for-18 (.167) against the big righty with two RBI in his 22 plate appearances.

While the sample size is not as big, catcher Wil Nieves is just as bad against the Mets starter, batting .182 against Pelfrey over his career (2-for-11). Big Pelf has never faced Pudge Rodriguez, who is off to a hot start with six bases in his first two games, so expect him to get the nod behind the plate.

The two big bats in the Washington lineup that could really hurt Pelfrey tonight are Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman.

Willingham has raked to the tune of a .412 batting average (7-for-17) with two home runs against Pelfrey, the most among active Washington batters.

Zimmerman is always a threat inside the batters’ box too, especially against the Mets. He has seen Pelfrey more than any other player on the team, and he is .297 lifetime with 11 hits in 37 at-bats.


A Tale of Two Pitchers

On Saturday, the Mets will send Oliver Perez to the hill for his first start of the year, and everyone is wondering just which pitcher will show up. Will it be the pitcher with a dominant slider who keeps hitters off balance, or will it be the headcase that makes Mets fans want to throw their souvenir home run apple at him?

Like Pelfrey, Perez is 3-5 lifetime against the Nationals, but he has surrendered 41 runs in just 51 innings, for a 7.14 ERA. It is his worst career ERA against any team that he has faced more than once, and if he walks the house like he did down in Port St. Lucie, it will certainly be a long year.

Perez will want to see Willie Harris’ name on the lineup card. The corner outfielder is 0-for-10 with three strikeouts against the Met.

Christian Guzman has not fared much better. He is just 2-for-11, though he does have a home run to show for his efforts. Ian Desmond may get the nod at short if the Nationals do not like this matchup. It would make sense to have someone else batting in the No. 2 spot ahead of Ryan Zimmerman.

Nieves has absolutely ran Perez ragged over the last few years. He has been on base in seven of his 11 plate appearances, and it makes sense for him to start on Saturday, especially if Pudge plays tonight.

Perez will also have to watch out for Willingham, who is 7-for-25 with three home runs, six runs batted in, and nine walks against him. Willingham is a general killer against Mets pitching, so it’s no surprise that he’s on this list.


An Ace Up the Sleeve

Should the Mets struggle against the anaemic Nationals, just remember that Johan Santana is pitching the final game of the set.

Johan is 6-1 in seven career starts against the Nats, and he has won his last five straight games dating back to a 3-1 loss in June of 2007, when he gave up two runs over seven innings.

In terms of guys the Nationals may want to sit on Sunday, Chris Coste (1-for-11) would have been the obvious choice, but he is on the DL recovering from elbow problems.

That leaves light-hitting second baseman Adam Kennedy (3-for-17) and Willie Harris (1-for-9) as the two regulars who have had trouble trying to work out Johan over the last few years.

At the other end of the spectrum, Pudge has seen Johan twice as much as any other Washington player from his time in the American League. It hasn’t added up to much success, though, and the catcher has just two extra-base hits in 42 plate appearances. He is .225 lifetime against Santana with nine hits and 10 strikeouts.

There are very few batters that the Mets ace should fear, but Dunn could be one to keep an eye on.

The slugger is 4-for-7 with two home runs in the few times the pair have met. Guzman is batting a very respectable .500 (8-for-16), but with the exception of one double, everything has gone for a single.