No Place Like Home

The boys are finally coming home. After a nice 4-2 road trip to start the season (let’s pretend the last 2 days didn’t happen) the Nationals are back home, ready to kick off their home schedule against their division rival the Mets. After a 4-0 start to the season and a 36-0 start in terms of innings with the lead, the Nationals were knocked back a bit over the last couple of days. After AJ Cole got absolutely pummeled on Tuesday night, Max Scherzer took the hill and a 5-1 start looked like a certainty. An error, a bomb, and a lackluster Max performance later, the Nationals instead head home 4-2. Back home, the Nationals are set to kick off the biggest, and possibly most scrutinized season in the history of Nats Park. If that wasn’t enough, the Nationals this morning announced the Mike Rizzo has been extended for 2 more year and the entire Nats fanbase breathed a big sigh of relief.

Stephen Strasburg takes the hill for game 1 of the series (and home schedule) against Nat-killer Jacob deGrom. Strasburg is coming off a strong start to the season against the Reds and is looking to continue his dominance from the second half of last year and the postseason against the Cubs. deGrom meanwhile, had a decent start his first time out as he picked up the win against the Cardinals despite laboring through only 5.2 innings. In this matchup, the Nationals throw their co-ace against the healthiest and most consistent Mets pitcher over the last few years. With a deeper lineup this year that is more balanced, look for the Nats to be patient with deGrom and work up his pitch count early on. With a top 3 of Eaton, Rendon, and Harper, the Nats should get plenty of opportunities early on to do just that.

In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the two teams take a day off and go back out there for game 2 on Saturday afternoon (snow-permitting) with Gio Gonzalez set to go against the Mets fragile lefty, Steven Matz. Gio dominated the Reds his first time out and looks to build on his past success against the Mets. Matz is healthy to start the year for a change, although he was knocked around his first time out giving up 3 runs, and 2 homeruns, in 4 innings against the Cardinals. With snow expected in the forecast, this game could get pushed back to Sunday afternoon as the 2 teams aren’t scheduled to play on Sunday until Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN at 8 PM.

The Sunday Night Baseball matchup pits the Nats most impressive starter so far, Tanner Roark, against oft-injured (notice a theme?) former Mets ace Matt Harvey. With the game-time temperatures expected to be in the low 30s, this will most likely be a low-scoring pitching duel. Harvey is looking to regain his magic from 2015 and get back to his status as a competent pitcher in the league after a couple of down seasons and sitting through trade rumors all winter. Roark, meanwhile, simplified his delivery over the winter and is looking to get through the bitter disappointment of not starting in last season’s division series (and not even pitching at all in the series) despite his strong resume.

While it will be hard to make definitive assumptions after a series this early in the season, a couple of strong starts from the injury-prone Matz and Harvey and the Mets can announce themselves as a potential challenger to the Nationals supremacy of the NL East. The Nationals can take this opportunity to continue their strong start to the season and show that they are still the big dog when everyone is healthy. I can’t wait for this series and this home season, but one thing is for sure: There is no place like home.

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