SPORTS

Nats feeling pretty good heading into NY to face the Mets

New York Mets’ Daniel Murphy (28) is forced out by Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond on a ball hit by David Wright, who was safe at first during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Washington. The Nationals won 5-3 in 13 innings. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
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NEW YORK (AP) -- The Washington Nationals won't have to face Mets impressive rookie Jacob deGrom on Tuesday night, but they haven't required any such breaks to win in New York recently.

The Nationals will try for a ninth straight win at Citi Field when the NL East foes open a three-game series, with the Mets recalling Rafael Montero to face Doug Fister.

Washington (63-53), which is also 22-4 at New York since Sept. 12, 2011, has combined plenty of offense with dominant pitching to outscore the Mets 60-17 on the current eight-game run. The Nationals have homered 22 times while limiting their hosts to a .171 average.

Things didn't work out as well in Atlanta over the weekend, as the Nationals lost 3-1 Sunday to drop two of three in the series.

Despite a lack of offense on a five-hit day, Denard Span's two-hit game extended his hitting streak to 14. The leadoff hitter has reached base in 36 consecutive games since June 28, in which his .396 batting average and .463 on-base percentage are easily the best in the majors. He's also a career .344 hitter against the Mets.

On the mound, Fister (11-3, 2.49 ERA) will try to continue an impressive season as well as a strong recent stretch. In his last three starts, the right-hander has surrendered two earned runs over 21 1-3 innings for a 2-1 record, 0.84 ERA and .197 opponents' average.

The 30-year-old limited the Mets to an unearned run and six singles in 7 1-3 innings of Wednesday's 7-1 win. His teammates certainly appreciate his quick approach, and Adam LaRoche thinks it has something to do with the 5.25 run support average they've given Fister, which is the highest in the Washington rotation.

"It's no coincidence that I feel like a lot of runs get scored when Doug pitches," LaRoche said. "I think it's a matter of really quick innings. He's pitching to contact, guys are on their toes, and there's a lot of action. Seems like when he's pitching, we're out there for 30 minutes on defense and spend two hours in the dugout."

Fister has won both of his career starts against the Mets with a 0.66 ERA. The Nationals' one series win in their last four came last week at home against New York, taking two of three to improve to 7-2 against the Mets (57-62) this season.

DeGrom is 5-0 in his last six starts but landed on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of tendinitis in his shoulder, prompting the club to recall Montero (0-2, 5.40) for his first start since May 30. Montero has made four starts this season and will get at least two this time around.

"We wouldn't bring (Montero) up for just one start," manager Terry Collins told MLB's official website. "He'll make two (starts). All he has to do is be himself and throw strikes.

"He's a strike-throwing machine. The first time he was here, he nibbled. If he's himself, throwing strikes, he's real good."

The 23-year-old right-hander was 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 15 start with Triple-A Las Vegas.

New York followed up its series loss in Washington by taking three of four in Philadelphia. Monday's 5-3 win was highlighted by Anthony Recker's three-run homer in the seventh inning. The catcher had been in an 0-for-18 skid prior to the at-bat.

"It felt great. I needed it real bad," Recker said.

Daniel Murphy has had no such issues, and his 2-for-4 day increased his average over 16 games to .412. The second baseman is batting .397 in his last 18 contests against Washington.

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