TODAY'S PAPER
Overcast 22° Good Morning
Overcast 22° Good Morning
SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Terry Collins downplays hype for another series with Nationals

Manager Terry Collins is trying not to provide

Manager Terry Collins is trying not to provide any bulletin-board material for the Washington Nationals, who are one and a half games in front of the Mets going into a three-game series Monday night. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Our two New York baseball teams might want to send Major League Baseball’s schedulemaker a “thank you” card this morning.

The Mets, after dropping two of three to the Nationals last week and watching Matt Harvey get booed off his own mound, were given the gift this weekend of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Result: Three-game sweep.

The Yankees, who are desperately trying to reach the .500 mark, were granted a series against the Oakland A’s at Whatever-It’s-Called-These-Days Coliseum.

Result: Four-game sweep.

The Yankees are now one game under .500 before they return home to host the division rival Blue Jays starting Tuesday. That series’ importance is muted because the Blue Jays, last year’s American League East champs, are two games under.

And on a more parochial note, Long Island’s own Marcus Stroman will not pitch for Toronto at Yankee Stadium. He picked up his fifth win Sunday. Strong Island!

So the Mets-Nationals series that starts Monday in Washington will take center stage. The Mets trail Washington by 1 1⁄2 games in the National League East after Sunday’s Noah Syndergaard-powered 3-1 victory over the Brewers at Citi Field.

Of course, there are no big series in late May. At least that’s what Terry Collins was saying after the win.

“We’re going to try to win a game,” the Mets manager said. “But with what we’ve got going on right now, hopefully tomorrow night, [Bartolo Colon] gets us deep into a game . . . But we’re going to go in there at the end of a nice homestand . . . We’ve got to go play them.”

Not exactly Ya Gotta Believe. More like Ya Gotta Believe (We’ll Show Up and Put on Our Uniforms).

Call us suspicious, but we think Collins is tamping down expectations because the Mets appear to be on the short end of the pitching matchups the first two nights, which is rare for them.

On Monday, the struggling Colon faces Gio Gonzalez, who shut down the Mets for 6 1⁄3 innings Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the struggling-like-you-can’t-believe Harvey draws Stephen Strasburg. The last time those two matched up in Thursday’s series finale, Harvey allowed nine runs (six earned) in 2 2⁄3 innings and Strasburg gave up one run in six innings in a 9-1 thrashing.

At least the Mets have Long Island’s other prized pitcher, Steven Matz, going Wednesday against Tanner Roark. Strong Island II!

Of course, the pitcher who excites the Mets and their fans the most these days is Syndergaard, who outdueled Max Scherzer last week and dominated the Brewers on Sunday.

In those two starts, Syndergaard allowed one unearned run, walked zero and struck out 21 in 14 innings. News flash: He’s good.

On Sunday, Syndergaard didn’t have his slider in the early innings. If Harvey was watching from the bench, he would have seen Syndergaard work through that issue until the slider returned. Once it did, he was virtually unhittable on a day the Mets really needed him to go deep.

The 27-year-old Harvey could pick up a thing or two from the 23-year-old Syndergaard about how to get by when your secondary stuff is slow to arrive. For all of the angst about Harvey, Thor has picked up the torch as Mets ace to go along with his hammer.

The Mets are continuing to have trouble scoring runs, which is also vexing Collins heading into D.C.

Michael Conforto, who homered in the first inning, didn’t get that memo. He also didn’t get the one about the Nationals games not being anything special.

Conforto (gasp) called it “a big series.”

“I think we’re all excited,” he said. “They came into our place and took two of three.”

Said David Wright: “We’ve got a chance to redeem ourselves.”

Three nights. Two good teams. It should be fun.

New York Sports