Nationals’ top prospect expected to debut in series opener vs. Mets

The New York Mets surged into contention in June thanks to a pair of fresh faces.

Beginning Monday night, the Washington Nationals hope a new addition can provide a similar impact.

Top prospect James Wood is expected to make his major league debut Monday night, when the Nationals host the Mets in the opener of a key three-game series between the National League East rivals.

MacKenzie Gore (6-7, 3.60 ERA) is slated to start for the Nationals against fellow left-hander David Peterson (3-0, 3.67).

Both teams dropped the rubber game of a three-game series Sunday afternoon. The visiting Nationals fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-0 while the Mets lost to the visiting Houston Astros, 10-5, in 11 innings.

The defeat concluded a 3-6 road trip and closed out an up-and-down month for the Nationals, who went 13-14 in June but lost each of the four games they played with a chance to get to .500.

Washington also fell four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the third and final National League wild-card spot while falling into fourth place in the NL East, two games behind the Mets. The Nationals began the month 2 1/2 games ahead of New York.

But Wood, a 21-year-old outfielder who was acquired from the San Diego Padres in the blockbuster Juan Soto trade in 2022, could provide a boost for the Nationals as they attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 2019.

Wood, a consensus top-15 prospect, is batting .353 with 10 homers, 37 RBIs and 10 steals in 52 games for Triple-A Rochester. The Nationals have yet to officially announce his promotion but he sat out Rochester’s games on Saturday and Sunday.

“We’ve heard about him all year,” Nationals outfielder Jesse Winker said Sunday afternoon. “It’s cool. It’s the start of a new career and it’s going to be an exciting career. Looking forward to congratulating him and watching him do his thing.”

Letting the newcomers play paid dividends throughout June for the Mets, who lost the last two games of the series against the Astros but still went 16-8 in June, the best record in the NL and only a half-game behind Houston for the top mark in the majors.

The Mets ended the first half of their season at 40-41 and two games behind the Cardinals in the NL wild-card race.

“I thought the past three weeks, we’ve seen the team that we thought coming into the season that we would be,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said Sunday morning.

Francisco Alvarez and Mark Vientos, each in his second full season in the majors, sparked the Mets’ resurgence by combining to hit .313 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 131 at-bats in June. Alvarez returned June 11 after a nearly eight-week stint on the injured list due to a sprained left thumb while Vientos, who won the third base job from Brett Baty after his promotion from Triple-A Syracuse on May 15, started all but one of New York’s 22 games in June.

Gore took the loss in his most recent start Tuesday, when he gave up five runs over five innings as the Nationals fell to the Padres, 9-7. He is 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA in four career starts against the Mets.

Peterson didn’t factor into the decision Tuesday after allowing one run over 4 1/3 innings in the Mets’ 9-7 win over the New York Yankees. He is 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) against the Nationals.

–Field Level Media