Chris Young is coming back from the same shoulder surgery that felled Johan Santana, so word was before the game he would be limited to 90 pitches in his first start of the year. Initially, it looked like that might be enough to go the distance, since he dispatched the Nationals in quick order in the first two innings. Whether that was due to his effectiveness or Washington's anxiousness is hard to say, but it was an encouraging for the woeful Pelfrey spot in the Mets' rotation.
The Nats got their first hit on a Danny Espinosa bunt single to start off the bottom of the third, and the speedy second baseman stole second in short order. He then advanced to third on a one-out single from opposing pitcher Jordan Zimmerman. Young got Steve Lombardozzi to fly out to shallow right, then got the vainglorious Bryce Harper to hit pop ups outside third twice. Each time, however, they were beyond David Wright's reach, and Harper recovered to flare a run-scoring single to left.
After a quiet fourth, Zimmermann (J) struck again in the fifth with a long double to center. Young walked Lombardozzi, but fanned the cocksure Harper, and looked like he might escape danger when he got two quick called strikes on Zimmerman (R). Unfortunately, Zimmerman (R) sent Young's next offering dribbling up the middle for an RBI single. Zimmermann (J) scored, and the Mets looked like they might catch Zimmerman (R) in a rundown. The plan was foiled when shortstop Omar Quintanilla was unnerved by Lombardozzi on third and launched a wild throw home that sailed well over Josh Thole's head and into the stands. Lombardozzi trotted home to give the Nats a 3-0 lead.
That looked to be more than enough for Zimmermann (J), a criminally underrated starting pitcher who was on top of his game through the first five innings, allowing just three harmless singles over that span. But right after the disastrous bottom of the fifth, the Mets came right back. Jordany Valdespin (pinch hitting for Young) got things started with a line drive home run to the bullpen in right field. Two outs later, David Wright hit his own solo shot, a wall scraper to left, that shaved Washington's lead to a slim run.
With Young gone, the Mets turned to Miguel Batista for length, a phrase that might strike fear into the heart of any Mets fan. Especially since, in order to provide said length, Terry Collins double switched Lucas Duda out of the game. Batista, however, managed a scoreless outing for once, allowing a walk in the seventh and nothing more.
His teammates, meanwhile, could do nothing against Tom Gorzelanny in the top of the seventh, but rallied in the eighth. Valdespin belted a one-out double against Sean Burnett, not far from where his homer landed, then Scott Hairston worked a lengthy at bat and walk against Craig Stammen. Andres Torres followed with a hit to right center that rolled all the way to the wall, allowing both runners to score and Torres to scoot to third with a triple.
The Mets had a prime opportunity to pad their first lead of the night, but after Wright was intentionally walked, pinch hitter Josh Satin struck out and Daniel Murphy ground out on the first pitch he saw. This proved costly in the bottom half when Tim Byrdak gave up a leadoff single to Zimmerman (R). Adam Laroche hit a grounder to Murphy that he could have flipped to second for a force out, had he fielded it cleanly. He didn't, and barely had enough time to get Laroche out at first.
It was then that Collins made the curious decision to ask Frank Francisco to get a five-out save. Considering the agita he causes when trying to get mere three-out saves, you can probably see where this is going. Francisco did get Michael Morse to ground to third for the second out, but he also left a pitch up to Ian Desmond, which he laced into right for a game-tying single.
Ike Davis attempted to start a rally in the top of the ninth by working a leadoff walk, but the next three Mets to bat swung at the first pitches they saw, to no effect. Francisco, meanwhile, fanned the first two batters in the bottom half before allowing a single of the non-bunt variety to Espinosa. That brought upstart Harper to the plate with a chance to do some damage, which surely caused many a sporting gentleman to drop his monocle and adjust his spats in nervous anticipation. Somehow, Francisco induced a flyout to left to end the threat. Hurrah, old school!
The Mets got the leadoff man on again in the tenth, this time via a single from Hairston against reliever Henry Rodriguez, who then stole second and moved to third on a grounder. That brought up Wright with a chance to put the Mets back on top. Though the pitcher's spot was due next and the Mets had only the anemic bat of Mike Nickeas left on their bench, the Nats made the curious decision to pitch to Wright. As it turned out, the Nats beat themselves when Rodriguez bounced a pitch. It rolled far enough away from home plate that Hairston could trot home without sliding, putting the Mets back on top, 5-4.
That set up a save situation for Bobby Parnell, who much like Frank Francisco was asked to get five outs. In Parnells case, that math came from the fact that he got zero help from his defense. A grounder to short was booted by Valdespin, allowing Zimmerman (R) to reach. Another grounder to first was mishandled at first, precluding any chance to getting the lead runner. Then, a pitch in the dirt went through Josh Thole's legs, pushing Zimmerman to third with one out. After a walk to Morse, Parnell induced a sharp grounder to short that easily could have been a game-ending double play. Instead, it went through Valdespin's legs, and the game was tied.
Parnell struck out Espinosa but allowed the dinkiest of singles to Jesus Flores (the first actual hit of the inning), and fell behind Rick Ankiel 3-0 before somehow striking him out. Depending on your math, it was the either the fifth, sixth, or 27th out of the inning. In any case, it sent the game to the 11th inning, where a two-out hit by Thole and a walk of Vinny Rottino brought Valdespin to the plate with a chance for redemption. If this were a movie, or Philadelphia, he might have hit a three-run bomb. He struck out swinging instead.
Elvin Ramirez came out in the bottom of the 11th as the Mets' last man standing and looked rather geeked up in his second MLB appearance ever as he walked old friend Xavier Nady on four pitches. But he followed this up by striking out the impudent Mr. Harper swinging, catching Zimmerman (R) looking, and getting Laroche to swing at a pitch in the dirt. An impressive example of pitching to your defense.
On to the 12th! Ross Detwiler, in his second inning of work, got ahead of Hairston but made the mistake of leaving a meatball right over the plate. Hairston is particularly fond of meatballs offered by lefties and deposited it deep into the left field stands for a solo homer, giving the Mets the lead for the third time.
Detwiler walked Torres and permitted him to take second thanks to a wild pitch. A Wright groundout moved him to third with one out, but it also brought up Elvin Ramirez for his first professional at bat. Not MLB at bat; professional at bat. With no one else in the bullpen and no one left to pinch hit for him anyway, Ramirez made a few valiant swings and went back from whence he came. Murphy ground out to strand Torres at third.
This game being what it was, of course the bottom of the 12th opened with a double by Morse, and the pesky Desmond followed with his own double down the line to score him. After a flyout, Ramirez uncorked a wild pitch to put the winning run 90 feet away. This completely unnerved the rookie, as he then nearly threw a couple pitches to the backstop while trying to issue a intentional walk to Jesus Flores, threw another wild pitch that moved Flores to second, and walked Detwiler as he was trying to bunt for some reason. Ramirez went full to Nady, then induced a grounder that resulted in an out at home. He even got ahead of [OLD TIMEY ADJECTIVE HERE] Harper, but allowed the scandalous ne'er-do-well to dunk a single into left. Vinny Rottino tried to fake that he'd trapped the ball, but no one bought it, and the Nationals had a gift wrapped win. And they didn't even get the Mets anything! How embarrassing!
Remember when the Mets used to have a nut-punch loss like this on a weekly basis? Like, a month ago?
Big winners: Scott Hairston, +73.2%, Andres Torres, 48.5%
Big losers: Elvin Ramirez, -70.0%, Bobby Parnell, 32.4%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Andres Torres two-run triple, top 8th
Teh sux0rest play: Ian Desmond RBI double, bottom 12th
Total pitcher WPA: -116.2%
Total batter WPA: 66.2%
GWRBI!:Bryce Harper walkoff RBI single, bottom 12th