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Mets (11-9) vs. Nats (6-16) 7:10 PM


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The memories couldn't exactly come flooding back for former Nats Ryan Church and Brian Schneider on Wednesday, because here, at the new Nationals Park, they had no memories, no history. Save for a promotional batting-practice session back when this was little more than a dirt lot, they had never even stepped inside.


So aside from greeting old teammates and coaches -- standard fare, really -- Church and Schneider went about their routines here, visiting Washington as opposing players for the first time in their careers. Church tested the outfield walls to see how they would play. Schneider tested his bruised right forearm to see if he could play. It was all business.


"In Spring Training, I let that go," Church said of his eagerness to play the Nationals. "I wanted to hit a home run every time I came up. But all the emotion, that's all gone."


So while both players once looked forward to seeing Nationals Park open, they're now both more than content to play here in road gray uniforms -- not home whites.


"You always want to be a part of a new stadium -- that's great," Schneider said. "But at the same time, I would trade it to be on a better team."


So far, the Mets have proven to be just that, winning in Washington on Wednesday night and sweeping the Nats at Shea Stadium last week. Aiming to continue their success, they'll turn Thursday to lefty Oliver Perez, who hasn't dropped a decision this season.


The Nats will counter with right-hander Shawn Hill, who underwent two separate arm surgeries last offseason. Finally recovered, Hill is looking for his first win of the season.

Pitching matchup

NYM: LHP Oliver Perez (2-0, 2.49 ERA)

By holding the Phillies scoreless last weekend -- the third time he's blanked a team this season --- Perez returned to the form that he had flashed over his first two starts. Even so, his most significant problem remained unsolved. Perez has yet to pitch into the seventh inning this year, and he hasn't even completed six innings in any of his past three starts. In two starts against the Nationals last season, he finished 1-1 with a 4.97 ERA.


WAS: RHP Shawn Hill (0-0, 7.20 ERA)

Hill showed potential in his debut against the Marlins last Saturday -- he struck out six and walked none -- giving the Nationals reason to believe that he can return to the form he flashed before a lengthy disabled-list stint last season. His history of elbow and shoulder problems now possibly behind him, Hill can look toward the Mets, against whom he's posted a 2.57 ERA in two career starts.



Moises Alou (recovery from hernia surgery) played seven innings in an extended Spring Training game on Wednesday, finishing 2-for-7. He could return as soon as this weekend. ... Ramon Castro (strained right hamstring) also played in an extended spring game, catching four innings and finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI. There is no timetable for his return. ... The Mets announced on Wednesday that they surpassed 3 million ticket sales for the final season at Shea Stadium -- the quickest that they have reached that milestone. ... Nats outfielder Wily Mo Pena holds a career .360 average in 25 at-bats off Perez, producing two home runs and two doubles.



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the Mets are not allowed to have any other catchers in the organization that speak English outside the starter.


Keep Castillo at #2 by the way, its probably the only spot he can hit and Church can hit anywhere.

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