Mets starter Jacob deGrom will take the mound Thursday afternoon against the Nationals fresh off winning National League Rookie of the Month honors for July.
The 26-year-old right-hander -- who will take on Jordan Zimmermann in the series finale at Nationals Park -- compiled a 1.39 ERA and went 4-1 over five starts last month. He also held opposing hitters to a .225 average, the lowest clip among qualifying NL rookies.
However, deGrom's recent dominant numbers haven't only been near or at the top among Major League rookies. His tremendous performance is also comparable to some of the league's best pitchers.
Since June 21, deGrom is fifth in the Majors in ERA at 1.52, trailing only Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Jon Lester and Felix Hernandez. He's tied for second in wins (six) and 15th in strikeouts (56) over the same span.
Since July 8, the 2010 ninth-round pick is second in the Majors and first in the NL in ERA (1.04), tied for first in wins (5-0), and one of five qualified MLB pitchers who have not allowed a home run.
"The experience has been unreal," said deGrom, who allowed two earned runs over 7 1/3 innings in a win over the Giants his last time out on Saturday. "You dream of it as a kid, and I think once you get up here it's been even more than you imagined. To be mentioned in the Rookie of the Year thing has been a great honor. I try not to think about it too much. I just try to go out there and pitch my game and let the rest take care of itself."
Zimmermann, meanwhile, is coming off his best outing since early June. He spun seven scoreless innings while allowing just five hits in a win over the Phillies on Saturday, demonstrating the biceps strain that forced him to miss the All-Star Game is in the past.
It certainly helped that the Nationals provided the right-hander with an 11-run lead through four innings.
"I felt good; these guys gave me some runs early," Zimmermann said after the game. "I was able to settle in, just throw strikes and let the defense work."
Nationals: Thornton's addition gives 'pen flexibility
The Nationals activated left-hander Matt Thornton on Wednesday after claiming him off waivers from the Yankees one day earlier.
The addition means the Nationals now have three lefties in their bullpen with Thornton, Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins. Manager Matt Williams said Detwiler would remain a multi-inning relief option while Thornton would be used in specific situations -- like facing a left-handed batter to start or finish an inning -- but would rarely throw more than one frame in an outing.
"Matt's really not that guy. He hasn't been that guy this year," Williams said.
Regardless, the addition of a third lefty gives Williams significantly more flexibility as the Nationals vie for a pennant down the stretch.
"The good thing about having three of them is that we can match up," Williams said. "And we can continue to do it the next day and the next day."
Mets: Lagares once again turning heads
Juan Lagares' recent run of spectacular defensive plays has the Mets again praising their center fielder on a near-daily basis.
Though Lagares has still demonstrated plenty of inconsistency at the plate, his defense has been incomparable. The second-year outfielder entered Wednesday's play with 19 defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs, which ranked tops among center fielders and tied for third among all big league players.
Saturday against the Giants, Lagares robbed Brandon Belt of an extra-base hit with a lunging catch at the warning track. Two days later, he threw a runner out at the plate for his third outfield assist. The following night, Lagares made a diving catch in Washington to save a run.
"I would have to say he's about as good as I've seen," manager Terry Collins said. "His first step is very, very good. He's daring. He's not afraid of fences. And we all know he can really, really throw, which makes him doubly great at playing center field."
• The Mets on Wednesday traded Minor League pitcher Hunter Carnevale to the Blue Jays. A former 33rd-round Draft pick, Carnevale was 4-1 with a 5.59 ERA in 23 relief appearances split between Class A Savannah and Class A St. Lucie.
• The Nationals optioned right-hander Blake Treinen to Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday to make room on the roster for Thornton.
• Williams said he expects Wilson Ramos, who started a three-day paternity leave on Tuesday, to be on the team plane Thursday night to make the trip to Atlanta for the weekend series against the Braves.
Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.