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Nationals In Town For Mets' Final Series

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Mets' record may indicate improvement over last season, but it's still not what embattled manager Jerry Manuel was anticipating.

Concluding another rough year with a three-game series against the last-place Washington Nationals may not be ideal, either.

The Mets attempt to beat the Nationals for the third time in seven games at Citi Field on Friday night.

New York (77-82) has dropped nine of 12, including three in a row to Milwaukee following Thursday's 9-2 loss, which clinched the club's second consecutive losing season.

The Mets went 70-92 in Manuel's first full season last year, and he appears unlikely to return for another. He's also not satisfied with New York missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

"We didn't set out to be a .500 club," he said. "We set out to try to win a championship."

In 2011, improvement within the NL East might be key for the Mets. They're currently tied with Washington with a 29-40 record against division foes.

Part of New York's struggles have come against the Nationals (68-91), who will finish last in the division for the fifth time in six years.

The Mets are 7-8 in the season series, losing four of six at Citi Field with the rotation posting a 6.34 ERA.

Pat Misch (0-4, 4.66) will get the start for New York, and try to prove he's worthy of a spot on the staff next year.

The left-hander tossed four shutout innings in a spot start Sunday, but gave up three runs in the fifth and was pulled with two outs before the Mets went on to win 7-3 at Philadelphia.

Misch is 3-12 with a 5.84 ERA in 23 career starts over four seasons with San Francisco and New York. He's 0-1 with a 5.87 ERA in four games - one start - against Washington.

The Nationals have dropped three of five after losing 7-1 to the Phillies on Wednesday, and are hoping this series isn't Adam Dunn's last with the club.

The first baseman is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason. He leads Washington with 38 homers and 103 RBIs, three shy of his career high set with Cincinnati in 2007.

"Obviously, if you lose him, you lose a big piece," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "He wants to stay here, and I think everyone wants him to stay here. It's just going to be a matter of whether they can work something out."

Zimmerman leads the Nationals with a career-high .307 average, and his 25 homers and 85 RBIs rank second to Dunn.

Jordan Zimmermann (1-2, 5.76) will make his seventh start since returning from Tommy John surgery, and might not mind seeing Dunn's name in the lineup.

The right-hander turned in one of his best performances of the season last Friday, allowing one run and three hits in five innings while Dunn collected five RBIs in an 8-3 win over Atlanta.

Zimmermann is 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA in three starts against the Mets.

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