Wed, 21 Oct 2020

Mets, Nationals still have something to play for in finale

Field Level Media
27 Sep 2020, 16:55 GMT+10

Eleven months ago, the Washington Nationals played in the biggest season finale possible.

The stakes won't be nearly as high for the Nationals Sunday afternoon. But if Saturday was any indication, playing for fourth place is more than enough motivation.

The Nationals will look to avoid becoming only the third defending World Series champion to finish last the following year when they host the Mets in the finale of the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

Austin Voth (1-5, 6.25 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Nationals against Seth Lugo (3-3, 3.82 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.

The Nationals knocked the Mets out of playoff contention by sweeping a doubleheader Saturday. Max Scherzer outdueled Jacob deGrom in a battle of Cy Young Award winners in the opener, when Josh Harrison had the tiebreaking RBI in the sixth inning of a 4-3 win. Trea Turner's homer off another former Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello, sparked a five-run third inning in a 5-3 victory in the nightcap.

The Nationals (25-34) are a game behind the fourth-place Mets (26-33) in the National League East, but another win Sunday means they won't officially join the 1998 Florida Marlins and 2014 Boston Red Sox as reigning World Series winners to finish last. A victory Sunday will give Washington the tiebreaker via its 6-4 head-to-head edge over New York.

Playing to avoid last place is not quite playing for the first championship in franchise history, as the Nationals did when beating the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 30. But in the strangest of seasons, it'll suffice.

"We faced deGrom, we faced Porcello -- both former Cy Young winners -- and we came to play today," said Nationals manager Davey Martinez, who turned 56 and signed a three-year contract extension Saturday. "It was fun to watch them, they had a lot of energy."

Playing to avoid last place also represents quite the comedown for the Mets, who entered Saturday needing a sweep to maintain slim wild-card hopes. And New York actually got the help it needed from other teams when the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants lost.

The sweep encapsulated a disappointing season for the Mets, who have been below .500 since July 30 and never won more than three games in a row as they failed to rediscover the late-summer magic of 2019. New York was eight games out of a playoff spot in late July but went 40-21 the rest of the way to finish with the best record (86-76) of any non-playoff team in the NL.

"In a regular year, we're just starting to get into the meat of the season," Mets first baseman Pete Alonso said. "It's a strange year. But there's no excuses. It's 60 games, 60 opportunities to win and get into the postseason. It's frustrating not playing baseball past tomorrow."

Voth and Lugo both won Tuesday, when Voth went the distance in a seven-inning 5-1 victory over the Phillies and Lugo allowed two runs (one earned) as the Mets beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2.

Voth is 1-2 with a 5.74 ERA in four games (three starts) against the Mets. Lugo is 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA and one save in 24 games (four starts) against the Nationals.

--Field Level Media

Sign up for Miami News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!