New York is 8 1/2 games back of Washington in the division and just 3-6 against the Nationals so far this season. It won't get any easier for the Mets this series, with Washington's three best pitchers scheduled to take the mound, starting with righty Jordan Zimmermann in Monday's series opener.
Zimmermann hasn't been flashy this season, boasting just a 7-6 record on the season thanks in large part to a lack of run support. However, the righty has been Washington's most consistent starter, recording 17 quality starts in 19 outings this season, including nine in a row. He hasn't allowed a run in his last two starts, with one of them a six-inning effort against the Mets last week.
On a staff that includes two All-Stars in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann sports the best ERA of the bunch at 2.35 -- and it has dropped in each of his last six outings.
"That's a big thing for me," Zimmermann said. "I want to finish the season strong, not just the first half. So far, so good. I want to keep getting stronger as the year goes on."
For the Mets, righty Chris Young will toe the rubber for his ninth start of the season and his third against the Nationals. He last faced Washington on Wednesday, opposite Zimmermann.
Young pitched well and matched Zimmermann with zeroes on the board through the first five innings until Adam LaRoche broke the tie with a two-run homer.
"Ultimately, we lost, and that's all I'm fixated on right now," Young said after that game. "I gave up the pitch that cost us the game, really, and dug us a hole. It's frustrating, because I feel like I can be better."
Nationals: Desmond to the DL
The Nationals are battling a handful of injuries to key contributors heading into their three-game set against the Mets, and they lost All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond following Sunday's series finale with the Braves. Desmond will go on the disabled list with a tear in his left oblique.
Desmond's absence means Danny Espinosa is likely to see more time at shortstop, where he has been playing on days Desmond missed due to the injury. Steve Lombardozzi will likely keep playing at second.
Mets: Ramirez recalled from Buffalo
New York recalled reliever Elvin Ramirez from Triple-A Buffalo and designated righty Miguel Batista for assignment Sunday morning to clear a roster spot for Ramirez.
Ramirez pitched one-third of an inning Sunday, walking one batter. He had a 1.99 ERA in 29 Minor League appearances this year. Batista was designated for assignment after his fifth start of the season on Saturday, during which he gave up four earned runs in three innings of work.
"It was very tough, Miguel has done a great job here," manager Terry Collins said of the move. "Of course he's a first-class guy and he brings a lot to the party as far as a clubhouse presence."
The Mets are 26-24 at home this season, including 1-2 against the Nationals.