New York Mets (44-35) at Washington Nationals (35-45), 7:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: New York - Jon Niese (5-2, 3.84) Washington - Luis Atilano (6-4, 4.33)
(Sports Network) - The Washington Nationals continued to be a thorn in the side of the New York Mets in the opener of this set on Thursday. Tonight, Jon Niese tries to get the Mets back on track and win his fifth straight decision in the second test of the four-game set from Nationals Park.
Niese has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets, going 5-2 with a 3.84 earned run average. The 23-year-old left-hander picked up a win on Sunday against Minnesota, holding the Twins to four hits over six scoreless innings.
"It makes it easy with Rod (Barajas) and Henry (Blanco) behind the plate. They call great games," Niese said about his catchers after the win. "Really, all I have to do is follow them and execute my pitches and it usually turns out to be a good game."
Since returning form the disabled list on June 5, Niese is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts.
Niese, though, did not get a decision against the Nats the only other time he faced them, despite a poor performance that saw him surrender six runs in 4 1/3 innings of his team's 8-6 win.
Washington won in its last at-bat on Thursday, as Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning scored Willie Harris and lifted the Nationals to a 2-1 victory. Nyjer Morgan finished with two hits and an RBI, while Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman also had a pair of hits apiece for Washington, which has won six of the nine games against the Mets this season.
Pedro Feliciano (2-4) came in to keep the game tied in the home ninth, but Harris began the rally with a one-out walk. Morgan followed with a perfectly executed bunt that went for an infield single, and Guzman singled to left to load the bases.
Ryota Igarashi came on to get out of the jam, but Zimmerman's fly ball was just deep enough to plate Harris, as right fielder Jeff Francoeur's throw was off-line.
Livan Hernandez dropped his earned run average to 2.98 after throwing seven innings of one-run ball, allowing seven hits while fanning seven with no walks. Matt Capps (1-3) earned the win.
"Anytime you have a walkoff win, there's some extra excitement and enthusiasm, and you try to carry it over into the next day," Capps said. "Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. We'll try to take some of the momentum tonight and carry it tomorrow."
Johan Santana pitched well enough to win, giving up one run, six hits and two walks in seven frames, but the Mets lost for the third time in four games overall. Ike Davis' RBI single in the first provided the only offense.
"We know, and I know every game is important for us," Santana said. "That's the way I approach every outing. At the same time, I'm not going to do anything crazy ... It's just that tonight, it didn't work out."
Washington, meanwhile, will pin its hopes on righty Luis Atilano, who is 6-4 with a 4.33 ERA. Atilano did not get a decision on Sunday in Baltimore, as the Orioles reached him for three runs (two earned) and five hits in seven innings of a 4-3 loss.
Atilano has faced the Mets twice this season and is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA in those outings.
Washington has won seven of its last eight at home versus the Mets.