Suzuki finds his stroke in Nationals lineup

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Suzuki finds his stroke in Nationals lineup

NEW YORK -- Davey Johnson has been a fan of Kurt Suzuki's offensive prowess since he first managed the catcher during a 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament in Cuba. So the Nationals skipper isn't surprised at all by what he's seen from Suzuki over the last two weeks.

"He's swinging the bat like he did there," Johnson said. "He's short to the ball, and he's got some pop. And everybody knows he's a great defender. So he just fits right in. Everybody in the lineup is a threat right now."

Indeed, Suzuki's recent surge at the plate completes the Nationals' lineup and gives Johnson a power threat in every starting spot. Collectively, his club has hit 33 homers over its last 13 games (entering tonight's contest against the Mets) and Suzuki has been a major contributor.

After struggling to find his swing in the immediate aftermath of his Aug. 3 trade from Oakland -- he hit .192 with a paltry .476 OPS in his first 14 games with the Nationals -- Suzuki has hit .333 with four homers and a 1.089 OPS over his last 12 games.

The 28-year-old catcher isn't trying to analyze too much what's made this reversal of fortune possible.

"It's getting a good pitch to hit and trying to put a good swing on it and trying not to do too much," he said after homering during last night's win over New York. "Baseball is weird. Sometimes you run into them, and sometimes you don't."

Truth be told, Suzuki has been working extensively with hitting coach Rick Eckstein on a shorter, more-compact swing, the result of which is starting to produce tangible results.

Suzuki's recent hot streak coincides with the Nationals' overall offensive surge. All of a sudden, a lineup that often struggled during the season's first half to score three or four runs a night is now averaging 6.8 runs (and 2.5 homers) per night.

"From what I've been seeing so far since I've been here, the talent is unbelievable," Suzuki said. "So it doesn't surprise me one bit."

Despite lopsided games, Nats and Mets remain closely matched

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Despite lopsided games, Nats and Mets remain closely matched

After waiting six long weeks for the first matchup between the Nationals and Mets of 2016, they played six games all within a stretch of nine days with each team taking three of them. 

That leaves them at .500 against each other, which is as close a head-to-head record as you can possibly get. Yet despite that fact, consider this: three of their games have been blowouts, two were shutouts and one - Tuesday's 7-4 Nats' win - was never really that close.

The season series has been an eventful one so far, yet none of their six contests has provided the late-game thrills we witnessed last year, at least when it comes to testing the Nationals' bullpen. Now we wait another full month before they square off again on June 27.

Because of the unusual results, the Nationals could only really draw conclusions from the overall record when asked about the rivalry after Wednesday's 2-0 loss.

"We've gone 3-3, .500," former Met Daniel Murphy said. "It's a good club. I think this is the way everybody kind of drew it up at the beginning of the year."

"It makes us about even," manager Dusty Baker said. "We've matched up good against them and they've matched up good against us."

The Nationals and Mets remain close in the NL East with just a half-game separating them in the standings, the Nats sitting just ahead of the reigning division champions. As Murphy said, both teams are about where they were expected to be.

How they got there, though, has perhaps been unexpected. The Nationals have paced a 28-19 record despite Bryce Harper hitting just .245 and Ryan Zimmerman batting .236. Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth have come around lately, but have not been themselves for the majority of this season. Given how healthy the Nats' lineup has been, it may come as a surprise they rank about average as an offense.

The Nationals' starting rotation has been as good as any in baseball, but their lineup is working to find consistency. And until we see Jonathan Papelbon and others in more high-pressure games, the jury is still out on their bullpen.

The Mets are in second place despite going through a whole lot more than that. Their pitching staff has seen Matt Harvey stumble through the worst stretch of his career and Jacob deGrom deal with velocity issues. The Mets are 23rd in runs scored and just lost Lucas Duda for who knows how long with a stress fracture in his back. 

For the Mets to be where they are is impressive all things considered. And, like the Nationals, it still feels like we haven't seem them at their best.

Neither team has fully hit their stride and neither truly separated themselves in the few times they've played. 

NL East: Mets vet Wright says Harvey should have spoken to media

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NL East: Mets vet Wright says Harvey should have spoken to media

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey didn't only duck the media on Tuesday night after his start, he also avoided them on Wednesday morning before the team's series finale at Nationals Park. Reporters approached him, but he declined. At some point he'll talk, of course, but he has essentially been delaying the inevitable.

The backlash for Harvey in New York for not talking was strong. One Mets columnist even said the move speaks to Harvey's entitlement and went into detail about how he's been enabled by the Mets. 

Nationals manager Dusty Baker admitted on Wednesday that it may have made things easier for Harvey if he had addressed the media. And now Mets teammate David Wright has said about the same. 

"Accountability is big and I think [Harvey] just had a bit of a lapse in judgement," Wright told the New York Post. "I think the consensus is we should all be accountable for what we do on the baseball field."

Wright has been with the Mets for 13 years and has a strong voice in their clubhouse. It wouldn't be surprising at all if he is speaking for a large number of Harvey's teammates with those words.

Whether Mets fans actually care may be another story, but we now know how at least one of his teammates feels.

NL East: Barry Bonds wouldn't take picture with Dodgers star Pederson

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NL East: Barry Bonds wouldn't take picture with Dodgers star Pederson

Apparently being an MLB All-Star and home run derby runner-up is not enough for Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds to take a picture with you.

That's according to Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, a 2015 NL All-Star. He said he tried to take a picture with Bonds before a Marlins-Dodgers game last month and got rejected.

Ouch. Pederson described the interaction on Fox Sports Live and it sounds like he was pretty surprised by Bonds' reaction. Then again, who wouldn't be? It seems like a simple request.

Many athletes current and former take pictures with fans all the time and those are just fans. It would seem even more likely to get that picture if you are part of their fraternity as a pro ball player.

Here is Pederson describing the exchange on FS1:

[Via Sports Illustrated]