The Nationals continue their march towards claiming their second NL East title in three seasons. The host Mets have a roster of guys playing for their major league careers. Over the weekend series between the two teams, which will bear out?
On Friday night, Travis d’Arnaud drove in two runs with a bases-loaded double in a three-run first inning. The Mets’ bullpen threw 3.2 shutout innings to hold off the Nationals.
Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez struggled from the beginning. In the bottom of the first, leadoff man Eric Young Jr. laced a first-pitch single to center field. Gonzalez hit the next batter, Juan Lagares, with an 0-2 fastball. Two batters later, Lucas Duda drew a walk to load the bases. d’Arnaud battled Gonzalez to a 3-2 count, fouling off several pitches. Finally, Gonzalez tried to cross up d’Arnaud with a changeup. The Mets’ catcher jumped all over it, driving a sizzling line drive deep into the left field corner. Young and Lagares scored with ease. Duda chugged around the bases, and tried to outrace the relay throw. Washington left-fielder Bryce Harper hustled to the ball, and quickly relayed it to shortstop Ian Desmond. In turn, Desmond whirled and threw a one-hop strike to catcher Wilson Ramos. The ball beat Duda to the plate, but as Duda slid, his back (right) foot kicked Ramos’ catcher’s mitt. The ball came free, Duda was safe, and the Mets led 3-0 at the end of one inning. Ramos was credited with an error on the drop.
Two innings later, the Nationals got back in the game. Anthony Rendon led off the top of the third with a ringing double to left-center field. Adam LaRoche’s single brought Rendon home with the visitor’s first run of the game. Desmond followed with a neat single to center. With runners on second and first, Harper grounded into a double play, but LaRoche was able to advance to third base. Ramos’ single scored LaRoche, and the Nationals had closed to within 3-2 halfway through the third.
Neither team scored in the fourth inning, but Rendon’s homer leading off the fifth tied the game at 3 apiece. The Mets, though, came back in the bottom of the fifth to tally what eventually became the winning run. Young Jr. led off the home half with an infield single. Lagares came up next, and he hammered an inside changeup into the left field corner. Young Jr. came home well before the throw reached the infield, and the Mets led 4-3 after five innings.
Lately, Washington’s hitters have shown an ability to score late in games. On Friday night, the Mets’ relief corps shut Washington down. Carlos Torres (1.1 shutout innings), Jeurys Familia (1 shutout inning) and Jennry Meija (1 shutout inning) only allowed a total of two hits and two walks from the sixth inning to the end of the game.
Torres came into the game for Gee with two on and one out in the sixth, and induced Asdrubal Cabrera to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. In the top of the seventh, Torres induced Desmond to hit into another 4-6-3 double play to end that inning. Familia struck out Harper and Ramos in the eighth inning to short-circuit the Nationals’ efforts. Meija allowed a Denard Span leadoff single in the top of the ninth, but later struck out Rendon before walking LaRoche. With two on and two out, Meija struck out Desmond to end the game. The Mets win broke a skid of 12 straight home losses to Washington.
Gonzalez (6.2 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts) battled back from the rough first inning, but the offense couldn’t quite complete the comeback.
Doug Fister gets the Saturday start for Washington, to be opposed by New York right-hander Zach Wheeler.
Notes: Nate Schierholtz replaced Jayson Werth (flu) in the lineup Friday night.
Atlanta lost 2-1 at Texas Friday night. That loss reduced Washington’s magic number to 8.