Injuries were a major factor as the New York Mets matched their longest losing streak of the season last week. While the club’s health problems haven’t gone away, Gary Sheffield(notes) has helped ease their impact lately.
Sheffield looks to continue his hot hitting and Livan Hernandez(notes) tries for his sixth straight win over his former club as the Mets go for their fourth win in five games Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals.
New York (24-20) totaled six runs while losing four straight from May 17-20, a skid that was largely due to the absences of Carlos Delgado(notes) (hip surgery), Jose Reyes (calf) and Brian Schneider(notes) (back).
The Mets’ injury woes have only gotten worse with Ryan Church(notes) (hamstring) and Carlos Beltran(notes) (knee) also ailing. But Sheffield has stepped into the starting lineup to help lessen the blows. He’s batting .395 (15 for 38) with three home runs, nine RBIs and 14 runs scored in 11 games since replacing Delgado as the club’s regular cleanup hitter, raising his batting average from .178 to .277.
Sheffield has hit safely in four straight games and the Mets have won three of them. The 40-year-old’s 503rd career home run broke a 1-all tie in New York’s 5-2 win over Washington (13-31) on Monday night. A fan reached out and touched the ball as it approached the left-field wall, but it was ruled a home run and that decision was upheld after umpires consulted video replay.
The Mets could need continued success from Sheffield with Reyes and Beltran potentially headed to the disabled list. Reyes has missed eight of 11 games with the nagging calf strain, and Beltran will have an MRI on his sore right knee Tuesday.
“I just want to make sure that everything is going to be fine and it’s not going to get worse,” Beltran said. “Mentally I know something is wrong.”
New York’s injury-plagued lineup could be relieved of some of the pressure if the Mets can get another strong outing from Hernandez (3-1, 4.93 ERA), who still has the most wins for the Nationals (24) since the franchise relocated to Washington from Montreal before the 2005 season.
Hernandez lost his first game against the Nationals in 2006 after spending three-plus seasons with the club, but since then he’s posted a 3.34 ERA while winning five straight starts against them.
Hernandez held the Los Angeles Dodgers to one run in seven innings Wednesday, but the Mets still fell 2-1.
The Nationals will hand the ball to Craig Stammen(notes) (0-0, 5.68), who left his major league debut Thursday to a standing ovation. The right-hander retired the first 12 batters he faced before struggling his third time through the Pittsburgh lineup. He was pulled after giving up four runs in 6 1-3 innings, failing to get a decision in Washington’s 5-4 victory over Pittsburgh.
“I thought I controlled my emotions and my thought process pretty well,” said Stammen, called up from Triple-A Syracuse earlier that day.
Nationals manager Manny Acta was encouraged by the 25-year-old’s first career start.
“(Stammen) didn’t look intimidated the whole night,” Acta said. “He attacked the strike zone, worked fast, had very good sink on his fastball and just made it look easy. As he found out later, it’s not that easy, but he did a very nice job for us.”
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman(notes) has reached base safely by a hit or a walk in 43 consecutive games, topping the single-season franchise record set by Tim Raines in 1986 and pulling within three of Rusty Staub’s overall franchise record. Zimmerman is 5 for 16 (.313) with two homers and two doubles lifetime against Hernandez.