|Mets' Syndergaard returns to face Nationals|
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets are getting their Opening Day starter back Friday. The Washington Nationals may have watched their former National League Most Valuable Player begin to return to form Thursday.
Two of the game's brightest stars will be on display Friday night, when Noah Syndergaard is scheduled to come off the disabled list when the Mets host Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals in the second contest of a four-game series at Citi Field.
Syndergaard (4-1, 3.06 ERA) is expected to make his first start in seven weeks when he opposes the Nationals' Tanner Roark (3-11, 4.76) in a battle of right-handers.
The Nationals won the series opener Thursday night, when Anthony Rendon homered in his first two at-bats before Harper accounted for the decisive runs by launching a long two-run homer off Mets left-hander Jerry Blevins in the seventh inning of a 5-4 victory.
Harper is in the midst of a difficult campaign for the Nationals (47-46). He has 23 homers and 53 RBIs, but is batting .213, which would be a career-low by 30 points, and his .840 OPS is 168 points lower than a year ago. Washington manager Dave Martinez, though, said he thought the left-handed-hitting slugger might have unlocked something against Blevins.
"He was really quiet (in the at-bat)," Martinez said. "Those are the kind of at-bats that might turn things around for him. Left on left, Blevins is not an easy guy to face, and he crushed the ball. So hopefully that'll get him going here the next few days. He gets the All-Star break and then we'll see what happens after that."
Getting Syndergaard going is likely one of the few things the Mets (37-54) have to look forward to the remainder of the season. New York has gone 12-32 since Syndergaard's most recent start May 25, when he gave up three runs over six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers and didn't factor into the decision as the Brewers earned a 4-3, 10-inning win.
Syndergaard was placed on the disabled list four days later with a right index finger ligament sprain suffered against the Brewers. The Mets hoped Syndergaard would miss only one start, but he went nearly a month without throwing from a mound and didn't make a rehab appearance until Sunday, when he allowed one run over five innings for Class-A Brooklyn.
His return has been long-awaited by the Mets, who skipped Syndergaard's spot in the rotation whenever possible over the last seven weeks and went 2-5 in the seven games started by stopgap solutions Jason Vargas, Corey Oswalt and Blevins. The trio combined to post a 6.99 ERA in their appearances.
"I love that we're getting Syndergaard back from the disabled list," Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters prior to Thursday's game. "That's really going to help us."
Syndergaard is 2-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 career starts against the Nationals, whom he's faced more than any other opponent.
Roark lost his fourth straight start and fifth straight decision in his most recent appearance Sunday, when he allowed four runs over four innings as the Nationals fell to the Miami Marlins 10-2. He is 0-5 with a 7.76 ERA in six starts since his most recent win on June 6.
Roark is 7-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 19 career appearances (13 starts) against the Mets.