Series preview: Mets vs. Nats

METS (71-75, fourth place/NL East) vs. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (82-62, first place/NL East)

Thursday: RHP Bartolo Colon (13-11, 3.96) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (12-10, 2.97), 7:10 p.m. ET

Friday: RHP Dillon Gee (6-7, 3.74) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 3.78), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP Zack Wheeler (10-9, 3.38) vs. RHP Doug Fister (13-8, 2.53), 7:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: LHP Jonathon Niese (8-10, 3.59) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (11-5, 2.93), 1:10 p.m. ET

Nationals short hops

• Third baseman Anthony Rendon (flu-like symptoms) and shortstop Ian Desmond (lower back) both missed Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves. Desmond had departed Tuesday’s game after five innings experiencing tightness. Regular third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been out since July 22 with a right hamstring injury. He is expected to be with the Nats this weekend to take batting practice, but is not due to return to games this soon.

Rafael Soriano has been deposed from the closer’s role with the Nats after suffering consecutive blown saves. Drew Storen -- who had a high-profile loss in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals -- has converted three saves in a three-day span since Soriano lost the job. Still, officially the Nats are using a closer by committee that also includes Tyler Clippard and Matt Thornton. Soriano has blown five saves in 14 chances and has a 6.64 ERA since the All-Star break.

Jordan Zimmermann is 5-0 and the Nats are unbeaten in his last eight starts.

• First baseman Adam LaRoche went hitless in four at-bats Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves. He had been 9-for-19 with four homers and 12 RBIs in his previous six games.

• Washington leads the Braves by eight games in the division. The Nats’ magic number to clinch the NL East title is 10.