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Nationals-Mets Preview

While the Washington Nationals will continue on their road trip following the completion of this four-game series at New York, one could forgive Anthony Rendon for wanting to spend a little more time at Citi Field.

The third baseman will try to wear out Mets pitchers one more time Sunday and help the Nationals move another step closer to their second NL East title in three years.

Rendon has hit the ball all over the place in helping Washington (84-63) take two of the first three games of this set, going 10 for 15 with two homers and a double. He went 4 for 5 in Saturday's 10-3 romp that reduced the Nationals' magic number for clinching the division to six.

''What's it like to wake up in the morning and be great? You should know," Rendon - 18 for 40 with four homers, three doubles and a 1.288 OPS while hitting safely in all nine games at Citi Field this year - happily bellowed in the locker room. ''I've been more relaxed. If I knew anything different or any change, I guess I'd never get out. Fortunate series so far.''

He's fared well against Mets starter Jonathon Niese (8-10, 3.59 ERA) going 2 for 6 this year and 3 for 9 overall.

Win or lose Sunday, the Nationals will move onto Atlanta with a chance to at least claim a share of the division crown. They took two of three from the Braves at home prior to this series and also play at Miami as part of their 11-game road trip against NL East foes.

''I'm really happy with where we are as a team. We're playing really good baseball,'' said Ian Desmond, who reached 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season for the third time in his career with a steal Saturday. ''It's just an exciting time of the year for everybody.''

Jordan Zimmermann (11-5, 2.93) seeks his fourth victory in five starts and is trying to win a career high-tying sixth straight decision overall. He made the most of an early 5-0 lead Monday versus Atlanta, giving up four runs - two earned - in six innings of a 6-4 victory.

Since the All-Star break, the right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.77 ERA during a 10-start unbeaten stretch. That includes a win in two outings over the Mets, against whom he allowed four runs in 12 2-3 innings.

He's had some trouble versus Daniel Murphy, who is hitting .340 with three homers and five doubles lifetime in their matchups. Zimmerman also won six consecutive decisions from June 27-Aug. 9, 2012.

New York (72-77) committed four errors Saturday and has made seven in this series after totaling four in its previous eight games.

Niese is trying to beat the Nationals for the first time in three starts this year after posting a 8.10 ERA losing the previous two. The left-hander, who has allowed 11 runs and 16 hits in 10 innings in those defeats, did not get a decision Monday after limiting Colorado to a solo homer and seven other hits in 6 2-3 innings of New York's 3-2 walkoff win.

Niese has been given only two runs of support in his two defeats to the Nationals, and Adam LaRoche is 5 for 18 with three homers against him lifetime.

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