Nationals-Mets Preview

Loaded with talented young pitchers, it has been understood for months the New York Mets' plan was to add a proven hitter before the trade deadline to foster a playoff push.

Just before the deadline expired, they acquired a slugger they desperately needed.

Yoenis Cespedes will make his Mets debut Saturday night at Citi Field while Jacob deGrom takes the ball looking to help New York pull closer to the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

While a rotation led by deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard has helped the Mets (53-50) to the majors' third-best ERA at 3.26, their offensive ineptitude has hampered their playoff hopes. New York ranks last in the majors in batting average (.234) and runs per game (3.5) and is 29th with a .363 slugging percentage.

Two days after a deal for Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez fell through, the lineup got a significant boost Friday by acquiring Cespedes from Detroit for two minor league pitchers.

Cespedes hit .293 with 18 home runs, 28 doubles and 61 RBIs in 102 games with the Tigers and entered Friday with a 3.6 WAR - 1.3 better than top Mets position player Curtis Granderson.

''He's a very dynamic player,'' New York general manager Sandy Alderson said. ''We think he's going to impact us in a number of different ways. But I think also just his presence in the lineup and his presence on the team will raise the energy level.''

Cespedes, who hit 32 homers to win the 2013 Home Run Derby at Citi Field, is slated to start in left field a day after the Mets' offense nearly wasted a Harvey gem. New York managed five hits in Friday's opener before Wilmer Flores led off the bottom of the 12th inning with a homer to give the Mets to a 2-1 win and within two games of the Nationals (54-47).

It's been an emotional few days for Flores, who was wiping away tears at shortstop Wednesday when he thought he'd been traded for Gomez.

''Words can't really describe what has been going through his head and us as a team the last couple days,'' Harvey said.

Cespedes is one of the majors' top batters against right-handers, hitting .321 with 15 homers and an .898 OPS. However, right-handed hitters are batting .187 against rookie Joe Ross (2-3, 3.03 ERA) in his five starts.

DeGrom (10-6, 2.05) has the majors' third-best mark against righties, limiting them to a .176 average.

DeGrom also has baseball's fourth-best home ERA at 1.48 and is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts. He outpitched the Los Angeles Dodgers' Zack Greinke on Sunday, yielding two hits over 7 2-3 scoreless innings, as the Mets ended Greinke's shutout string at 45 2-3 innings in a 3-2, 10-inning win.

In his previous start, deGrom allowed two runs and three hits while striking out eight over six innings in a 7-2 win at Washington on July 21. Wilson Ramos hit a two-run homer off the All-Star right-hander and is 3 for 8 against him this year. Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar are each 3 for 7 with a double in 2015 matchups.

Harper was ejected in the 11th Friday for arguing a called third strike and was hitless in five at-bats after reaching base safely in a career-best 26 consecutive games. He is 3 for 20 at Citi Field this season, and manager Matt Williams was disappointed with Harper's decision to scream right in the face of plate umpire Jerry Meals in extra innings of a tie game.

''He needs to stay in the baseball game,'' Williams said. ''We talked about it. We'll talk about it again.''

Ross opposed deGrom last week and yielded three runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings. Flores had two of those hits.

Five days later Ross allowed three runs with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 3-1 loss at Pittsburgh. He served up a home run to Neil Walker - the only one he has surrendered in 129 batters faced. The 22-year-old has struck out 34 while walking three over 32 2-3 innings.

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