MLB: Mets, Nationals begin 3-game series in search of spark

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The New York Mets’ momentum stalled with losses in the final two games of a four-game series against the Washington Nationals last week.

But the consecutive wins didn’t provide a much-needed boost for the Nationals.

A pair of teams seeking a spark will meet on Tuesday night, when the Mets host the Nationals in the opener of a three-game set between the National League East rivals.

Left-hander Jose Quintana (3-5, 4.22 ERA) is slated to start for the Mets against right-hander Jake Irvin (7-6, 2.80) in a rematch of last week’s series finale in Washington.

Both teams lost the finale of a four-game weekend wraparound series on Monday afternoon. The Mets missed a chance to take a series from the host Pittsburgh Pirates, who earned an 8-2 win. The Nationals fell to the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, 6-0, and squandered an opportunity to salvage a split of the set.

New York’s struggles after rookie right-hander Christian Scott exited the game on Monday provided an appropriate bookend to a 2-4 stretch that began with Scott’s previous start, a 7-5 loss to the Nationals last Wednesday. Scott did not factor into the decision in that contest.

On Wednesday, the Mets entered the sixth inning with a 5-1 lead. But with their bullpen stretched by the suspension of Edwin Diaz, manager Carlos Mendoza tried to coax Scott to work the sixth before he gave up a two-out, three-run homer to Luis Garcia Jr. on his season-high 99th pitch.

Mendoza said Scott was limited to 75 pitches on Monday, when he allowed just one hit — a two-run homer to Oneil Cruz — and exited at 77 pitches after 5 2/3 innings with the score tied 2-2. The Pirates then scored five runs off Eric Orze, who was making his major league debut, and Adrian Houser in the sixth before adding an insurance run in the eighth.

The rough outings for Orze and Houser raised the Mets’ collective bullpen ERA to 4.13.

“There’s some games that have gotten away from us, but you know what — honestly, that’s the story of the year so far,” said Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who hit a two-run homer on Monday. “We haven’t been able to lock down wins all the time, and that’s a problem. But we’re hoping to address it.”

Last week’s back-to-back wins over the Mets were the first consecutive victories for Washington since a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins from June 14-16. But the Nationals blew a five-run lead in a 7-6, 11-inning loss to the Cardinals on Friday before needing four pitchers to navigate a 14-6 win on Saturday, when they scored the first nine runs.

The Nationals didn’t lead in the final two games of the series. After falling 8-3 on Sunday, Washington went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Monday, when All-Star shortstop CJ Abrams made two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs.

“This is a time of year where it’s tiring,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’ve got to find a way, and the best way to do it is focus on the little things. We got to start focusing on the little things and not beat ourselves.”

Quintana and Irvin traded zeroes in the Nationals’ 1-0 win on Thursday in a game that lasted just 1 hour, 58 minutes.

Quintana didn’t factor into the decision after giving up four hits over seven innings. Irvin allowed just one hit — a third-inning single by Jeff McNeil — over a career-high eight innings and earned the win after Jesse Winker hit an eighth-inning homer off Houser.

Quintana is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in six career starts against the Nationals. Irvin is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts against the Mets.

–Field Level Media

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