Monday, June 27, 2016

Mets tab Thor in first-place battle with Nationals

A Nationals team battling both injuries and on-field struggles will return home for a three-game series beginning Monday against a Mets club looking to regain control of the National League East.
As if the adversity of a week-long losing streak was not enough, the Nationals on Sunday placed star pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list. A shuffled Nats rotation now has Joe Ross lined up to face fellow right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who received a clean bill of health after experiencing elbow soreness during his last start.
The Mets, who are three games behind the Nationals but just two out in the loss column, will not watch Syndergaard with any more of a critical eye than they usually do, satisfied that his elbow is structurally sound.
The Nationals likewise hope Strasburg's stay on the DL with an upper back strain will be brief. In the interim, they must concern themselves with playing more consistent baseball. The Nationals' seven-game losing streak -- which was snapped Sunday -- stripped away the bulk of what was a six-game division lead as recently as last week, despite some middling play from the Mets.
"Every team is going to go through a tough time," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "The Nats are going through one right now. Everybody's going to have a bad time. That's why you've got to go out and play and try not to get yourself in too big a hole."
Things to know about this game
• Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson should be back in the lineup Monday after receiving a routine day of rest Sunday in Atlanta. The Mets expect to give each of their regular players at least one day off during the club's current stretch of 20 games in 20 days. They do not have another scheduled off-day until the All-Star break.
• Ross appears to be settling back into form after a somewhat rocky May. Over a six-start stretch from May 10 through June 6, Ross posted a 4.33 ERA, while opposing batters tagged him for a .761 OPS. In three starts since then, Ross is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA and a .692 opposing OPS.
• The Mets pushed Syndergaard back a day in the rotation last week, in part to line him up against the Nationals. But Collins' main motivation was to give Syndergaard, who had thrown a career-high 115 pitches in his previous start, two extra days of rest. He wound up complaining of elbow soreness, but a subsequent MRI revealed only inflammation.

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