The National League East was celebrated heading into the 2021 season as the very best in Major League Baseball and among the most competitive in all of sports.
Three weeks into the season, the competitive part is proving accurate. The quality of play? Maybe not so much.
Friday morning began with all five teams in the division separated by one game after 10% of the schedule had been played. The bad part? The Mets, Phillies, Braves, Nationals and Marlins are all at or below .500.
The Mets and Nationals will get together this weekend for a three-game set at Citi Field that could start to answer some questions about the structure of the division for the rest of the year.
Saturday’s Game of the Week on FS1 (4 p.m. ET) will be another chance for you to win some money on the FOX Super 6 Late Inning Challenge. Answer all six questions correctly, and you could win the $1,000 jackpot. It’s quick, it’s easy, and best of all, it’s free! Just download FOX’s Super 6 on any tablet or mobile device.
In that spirit, here are six things you should know about the Mets and Nationals before making your picks.
The Mets have been great at the plate in late-and-close situations.
The official definition of “late and close” is the seventh inning or later, with the batting team leading by one run, tied or with the potential tying run on base, at bat or on deck. In those moments, the Mets entered Friday’s play hitting .302 – best in the National League – with an OPS of .858 (seventh in baseball). The Mets are also hitting .276 from the seventh inning on – best in the National League. (Second in the NL: the Nationals, at .270.)
The Nationals’ pitching has not been stellar in late/close so far.
Samples are small, but the Nationals’ ERA in those spots has been 5.06 – 22nd in the majors. Their 1.50 walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) ratio is 20th in the majors. Again, it’s a small sample to this point, but it isn’t encouraging.
In the early going, neither the Mets nor Nationals have been strong with runners in scoring position. Washington is hitting .228 in this situation, ranked 21st. The Mets are even worse, with a .186 average, worst in the National League and second-worst in Major League Baseball. (Cleveland is at .165.)
For Pete’s sake
The Nationals’ pitching staff has scared a lot of people the past three seasons. Pete Alonso would not be one of them. The Mets slugger has hit 11 homers in 29 games against Washington, carrying a .330 average.
Juan big loss
Juan Soto will miss this game for the Nationals after being placed on the injured list because of a strained left shoulder. Soto was off to a good start for Washington, hitting .300 with two homers in 14 games. Lifetime against the Mets, Soto is a beast, with a .315 average, nine homers, 26 RBIs and a .980 OPS.
Both of these teams finished in the bottom of the NL East last season, in part because they struggled in division play. This season, this division will be won or lost in how teams do against the foes in their corner of the world.
So far, the Mets are 5-3 against the NL East, and the Nationals are 1-2. (These two teams had an opening weekend series postponed for COVID-19 protocols with Washington.)
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