Before tonight's game, to mark the solemn anniversary of 9/11, the Mets and Nationals shared a moment of silence. It was a quiet evening all around, as the crowd on hand wasn't so much thin as emaciated. With no audience to provide counter-noise, on-field chatter could be clearly heard on the SNY broadcast, and organ blasts of CHARGE! sounded like cruel jokes. Quietest of all, though, were the Mets' bats, which offered nary a peep throughout the night.
If you tuned in right at the first pitch, you'd be forgiven for mistaking tonight's game for a rerun. Just as they did in the first two games of the series, Washington got out of the gate quickly, as Denard Span dunked a leadoff single into shallow left and Jayson Werth belted a one-out double over Eric Young's head to put runners at second and third. Setting a pattern for the rest of his evening, Zack Wheeler wriggled off the hook by striking out out Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond in succession. Wheeler then retired the Nats 1-2-3 in the tops of the second and third, adding two more Ks along the way.
Wheeler didn't encounter trouble again until one out in the top of the fourth, when Harper was judged to beat out an infield hit (perhaps incorrectly, as replays indicated) then moved to second on a passed ball. The rookie escaped danger with a groundout and another strikeout, Adam LaRoche the victim this time. In the fifth, Anthony Rendon hit a one-out single up the middle, but after a sac bunt moved him up a bag, Wheeler caught Span looking to end the inning.
Wheeler was indeed in fine form Wednesday night. His teammates, on the other hand, batted like they each had a cab waiting outside the stadium with the meter running. And also the cabs were full of melting ice cream and transplant organs and women in labor. Or perhaps each player was being courteous to the batter who followed by standing in the box for .12 nanoseconds so everyone could get a turn. That was awfully decent of them, but not conducive to winning a baseball game.
The Mets have manhandled Dan Haren (say that three times fast) twice already this season, but that came when they had something resembling a major league lineup. Haren did the manhandling this time, setting Mets batters down in order easily in the bottom of the first. He limited them to one harmless walk in the second, then worked a perfect third. Haren also fanned 4 batters in the first three frames and permitted just one batter to hit the ball out of the infield. I might be mistaken, but I swear he threw a couple pitches from the Pepsi Porch. Mets batters swung at them anyway.
The Mets finally cracked the H column with a leadoff single from Juan Lagares to start the bottom of the fourth. He even stole second base, bless his heart, but the next three batters offered no further resistance, nor did anyone Haren faced in the fifth.
In the top of the sixth, Wheeler finally cracked, as Zimmerman took him deep for a solo shot that just cleared the Party City railing in left field. Wheeler looked a bit unnerved after that as he surrendered a two-out single to Desmond, then walked LaRoche, but limited the damage there.
In the seventh, Stephen Lombardozzi (pinch hitting for Haren) singled to right with one out. After the Mets failed to turn a double play on a Span grounder, Zimmerman singled to put runners on the corners, then stole second. Wheeler was hovering around 100 pitches at this point and appeared to be running on fumes, but he induced a harmless grounder from Jayson Werth to keep the score at 1-0. Not that it mattered much, as Wheeler surely knew a 1-run deficit was 2 or 3 runs too much for this offense to surmount.
Finding themselves behind, the Mets proceeded as they had all night, going quietly against Haren in the bottom of the sixth. And it wasn't just Haren who made the Mets play hurry-up non-offense. Southpaw Xavier Cedeno retired the two lefties he faced in the seventh, and while Drew Storen allowed a single to Josh Satin—an actual Mets hit!—Matt den Dekker followed with a harmless flyout to end what passed for a rally in this game.
Vic Black took over the pitching duties in the top of the eighth and allowed the Nats to score two thoroughly unnecessary insurance runs. It began when a pair of one-out singles from Desmond and LaRoche put runners at the corners. Black nearly escaped unscathed thanks to a foul out by Wilson Ramos, but he then allowed Rendon a long double to left-center, scoring both runners and stretching Washington's lead to 3-0.
Despite seeing the deficit tripled, the Mets dug down deep and found a way to turn in even more listless at bats than before. Tyler Clippard set down the Mets in order yet again in the bottom of the eighth, the sole excitement coming on a Mike Baxter fly that actually reached the warning track in right-center.
LaTroy Hawkins turned in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth with 2 Ks, which at least gave the Mets something approaching a chance in the bottom half. They even managed a baserunner when Lagares bunted his way aboard with a one-out bunt single, but the next two batters...they did something, I'm sure, but I don't think they would legally qualify as at bats.
This marked the second time in this series that the Mets were shoutout, and also drops their home record in 2013 to roughly 12-7,497 (give or take). But at least they didn't keep those cabs waiting too long.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Zack Wheeler, 18.7%, Juan Lagares, 4.8%,
Big losers: Vic Black, -16.4%, Daniel Murphy, -12.2%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Juan Lagares single, bottom fourth, 4.4% (seriously)
Teh sux0rest play: Anthony Rendon two-run double, top eighth, -17.1%
Total pitcher WPA: 2.9%
Total batter WPA: -52.9%
GWRBI!: Ryan Zimmerman home run, top sixth