Mets right-hander R. A. Dickey, who has a sparking 8-1 record with a 2.69 ERA, will be up against the Nationals' Chien-Ming Wang, who is long-removed from some glory years with the Yankees, and on the comeback trail.
The 37-year-old Dickey is coming off a sterling effort in his last outing Saturday, when he shut out the Cardinals on seven hits.
Dickey's effort came a day after teammate Johan Santana's no-hitter.
"He's one of those guys that can throw it slow or fast," said the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, whose second-inning double ended any hopes of a repeat no-hitter. "At the same time, he throws a [curveball] and a fastball. When you see a guy who only throws the knuckleball, you can see the one pitch. But he's a little difficult, because he can throw any pitch at any time."
Dickey has teamed with Santana to give the Mets a top-shelf 1-2 rotation punch. Teammate David Wright likes having the pairing of Santana and Dickey on his side.
"The way that Johan and Dickey are pitching right now, it would be tough to find a team that has two guys throwing the ball better than they are right now," Wright said. "That's in either league."
Wang, who missed the Nationals' first 42 games while rehabbing from a left hamstring injury, won 38 games for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007, but has struggled after suffering a foot injury in 2008 and is trying to re-establish himself with the Nationals.
The 32-year-old right-hander is coming off an outing when he pitched four-plus innings May 30 against the Marlins, allowing seven hits and four earned runs in a 5-3 loss.
That was his first start of the season, and just his second appearance since coming back from the hamstring injury.
"I'm kind of disappointed in myself today for my performance," Wang said through his translator after the loss to the Marlins. "I'm going to try to make adjustments in the coming days."
Despite Wang's struggles, Nats manager Davey Johnson said he plans to stick with the hurler every fifth day, but will see how it plays out down the line.
"He's in the rotation," Johnson said. "I like the upside of Chien-Ming. I know I'm going to get those questions, but Chien-Ming is a quality pitcher, and obviously he had some rust on him."
Mets: Wright rebounding this season
Wright was 1-for-4 on Wednesday, leaving his average at .359. The five-time All-Star is returning to form in 2012 after struggling in 2011, and it was announced earlier this week that he is currently the leading vote-getter at third base in National League All-Star voting. Wright has started for the NL four times in the Midsummer Classic.
Nationals: Getting it done despite injuries
The Nationals have a 32-22 record and a two-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East, despite having missed significant time from their best player (Ryan Zimmerman, right shoulder, endured 17-day DL stint), cleanup hitter (Michael Morse, right lat strain, missed 50 games), team leader (Jayson Werth, left wrist, out until Aug.), starting catcher (Wilson Ramos, right knee, will miss remainder of the season), most experienced bench bat (Mark DeRosa, oblique strain, out indefinitely), their most productive bench bat (Chad Tracy, right adductor strain, will miss 6-8 weeks), most experienced starting pitcher (Chien-Ming Wang, left hamstring, missed first 42 games), most experienced reliever (Brad Lidge, abdominal, out until mid June) and closer (Drew Storen, bone chips right elbow, has yet to pitch).
After Wednesday's 5-3 victory over the Mets, the Nationals are 18-9 at home, where their .667 winning percentage ranks second in baseball behind only the Dodgers' .700 mark at Dodger Stadium.