The Washington Times - May 18, 2011, 01:08PM

NEW YORK — The Nationals and Mets were given a rare in-season opportunity to shuffle their pitching rotations when both teams were rained out on Tuesday.

As the two teams battle to stay out of the Nationals League East basement — and the Nationals once again inch ever closer to a .500 record — they’ll send a pair of left-handers to open a quick two game series at Citi Field tonight: Tom Gorzelanny and Jon Niese.


Gorzelanny, who was always slated to begin the series, will take his regular turn in the Nationals rotation. They will instead skip Jordan Zimmermann this time around — most likely in an attempt to limit the right-hander’s innings this season. He’ll make his next start Sunday in Baltimore. 

The Mets rainout, however, got the Nationals out of facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in the second game of the series. Instead of pitching last night against the Marlins Niese was simply bumped up a day and will pitch against the Nationals tonight. Dillon Gee will throw for New York in the finale on Thursday.

According to Elias, the Nationals — who could potentially leave New York one game over .500 before their Beltway series with Baltimore this weekend — have played the toughest schedule in the major leagues to this point. It’s included 27 games against NL East opponents, an incredibly high number for this early in the season. The Nationals, though, are just 11-16 in those games. They’re 9-5 against everyone else.

That’s good news for Washington, which plays just five of its next 50 games (between tonight’s with the Mets and the All-Star break) against NL East teams. 

If there was ever a time for the Nationals to improve in the standings, without having to play their competition directly, the next few weeks is it. 

It starts tonight, though, with the Mets and Niese.

Here’s how the Nationals have done in the past against Niese, who is 2-4 with a 5.03 ERA this season:

Roger Bernadina: Never faced

Ian Desmond: 1-for-5 (.200), 1 2B, 1 K

Jayson Werth: 3-for-8 (.375), 1 BB, .444 OBP, 5 K

Wilson Ramos: Never faced

Adam LaRoche: 3-for-6 (.500), 2 HR, 6 RBI

Michael Morse: 0-for-3

Danny Espinosa: Never faced

Jerry Hairston Jr.: 0-for-4

Tom Gorzelanny: Never faced


Ivan Rodriguez: 2-for-9 (.222), 3 RBI, 2 K

Brian Bixler: 1-for-2 (.500), 1 K

Jason Marquis (because he could pinch hit): 1-for-2 (.500), 1 HR, 4 RBI