Mets-Nationals Preview

The NL East-leading New York Mets continue allaying any fears of another epic late-season collapse.

After rallying to build a six-game division lead over Washington, the Mets go for their longest winning streak against the Nationals in 24 years Wednesday night.

Although New York (77-61) appears comfortably in front of Washington (71-67) with 24 games left in the regular season, the position is eerily similar to the 7 1/2-game lead the Mets had with 17 to go in 2007 before they missed the playoffs on the final day.

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The club again fell apart a year later by squandering a 3 1/2-game advantage.

The Mets, who have won 13 of 18, continued to silence any talk of another letdown by erasing a six-run deficit in Tuesday's 8-7 win at Washington.

"We're playing like we don't have anything to lose, and that's what we need to do," said Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who had a go-ahead, pinch-hit homer in the eighth after the Mets scored six in the seventh. "I'm just going to enjoy the ride."

The Mets are trying to win a sixth straight matchup with the Nationals franchise for the first time since taking nine in a row against the then-Montreal Expos in 1991.

Jacob deGrom (12-7, 2.40 ERA) takes the ball after going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA over his last three starts. The right-hander battled through six innings Friday, allowing three runs and a season-high nine hits in six innings of a 6-5 loss in 11 at Miami.

"I feel like I threw the ball a little better than it showed," deGrom said. "I kept the ball down pretty good. I got a lot of groundballs. Some of them just went through the infield."

DeGrom is 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA over his last seven road outings, allowing two runs or fewer in five of them. That includes his only victory in five career starts against the Nationals. He gave up a two-run homer to Wilson Ramos while striking out eight in six innings of a 7-2 win at Washington on July 21.

DeGrom yielded two runs and fanned seven in six innings while not getting a decision in a 3-2 home victory against the Nationals on Aug. 1.

Washington entered this series on a five-game winning streak only to have the bullpen surrender 10 runs over 6 1-3 innings while being charged with both losses.

"This season is far from over," said closer Jonathan Papelbon, who gave up Nieuwenhuis' homer and took the loss Tuesday. "Everybody's got to pick up everybody in every count, in every situation. There's nothing else we can do. We've got to keep grinding, go out and win another ballgame (Wednesday)."

Stephen Strasburg (8-6, 4.35) returns to the rotation after tightness in his back forced him to exit after four innings Aug. 30. He gave up four runs and seven hits, including two homers, in a 7-4 win over the Marlins.

Strasburg, who won't be on a pitch count, was 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA over his four previous starts after returning from a left oblique strain that landed him on the disabled for over a month.

He has a 4.22 ERA while splitting two starts against the Mets this year. He surrendered six runs - three earned - in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 home loss April 9.

Bryce Harper is hitless in eight at-bats in this series, but Yunel Escobar is 5 for 9 with three runs to give him a .409 average over the past five meetings with New York. Harper is batting .214 with one homer in 15 season matchups.

They've both had success against deGrom, combining to go 10 for 23.