Earlier this week, baseball was fun again for the Mets. Free agent sluggers were living up to their paychecks, runs were plentiful, and the Amazins were clobbering the crosstown Yanks for two straight days. As it so often does with this team, reality swiftly brought the Mets back to Earth. It was one thing to be shutout by Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. It was another entirely to be dominated by Chase Whitley and Dellin Betances. Could the Metsies get their offense back on track against Tanner Roark and the Nationals?
Nope. But at least the end of the game was more exciting than the mundane first eight innings would have you believe. After the Mets were mowed over in consecutive innings by relievers Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen, and Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano entered to pitch the ninth with a 5-2 lead.
Washington's closer retired the first two men to face him despite being rudely interrupted by a hooligan during an at-bat that would end in a Ruben Tejada fly out. Down to his last out, Terry Collins deployed his super secret weapon Juan Lagares as a pinch-hitter, and the crazy strategy worked! Lagares drew a walk to turn the lineup over. After Eric Young Jr. followed with a walk of his own, Daniel Murphy came to the plate as the tying run.
Soriano was desperate not to fall behind another batter, and he grooved a pitch for Murphy, who hammered the first pitch of the at-bat deep into right field. Unfortunately for the road side, the tall and lanky Jayson Werth drifted back and jumped against the wall to make a game-saving catch. After watching the replay, I can't say for sure, but it looked like that ball had a chance to leave the yard if Werth didn't get to it.
The Mets didn't waste any time falling behind in this one. After Denard Span singled to lead off the game, David Wright misplayed a short hop on an Anthony Rendon ground ball that could have turned into a double play. Instead, the play was ruled an error and Niese was in an early hole. Werth followed with a line drive single to kickoff the scoring, and Wilson Ramos hit a sac fly to make the score 2-0 Nats.
The inning wasn't over yet, though. Ian Desmond walked and Scott Hairston singled to load the bases. Tyler Moore then gave the Mets a chance to end the frame by hitting a one-hopper to Murphy at second base. If he fielded the ball cleanly, the Mets could have had two outs on the play, but Murphy bobbled the ball, allowing Moore enough time to beat out the force at first base. The Mets got just one out, and Werth scored on the play to make it 3-0 Nats.
Niese just wasn't missing enough bats to be effective tonight. He struck out just two batters while throwing 84 pitches in four innings, and the Nationals would get to him again in the bottom of the third. With two outs and Ramos on first base, Hairston ripped a double to the gap in left-center field. Washington's catcher came all the way around to score, and Moore added an RBI single to give the Nats a 5-0 lead.
Niese rebounded to strike out a pair in the fourth, but Collins decided to call it a night for him by pinch-hitting Chris Young in the top of the fifth. The Mets had already started to rally in that inning thanks to Lucas Duda's single and an Anthony Recker double. Tejada grounded out to get the first Mets run home in the form of Duda, so it made sense to insert Young and go for the crooked number.
Unfortunately, all Chris Young could manage was a pop fly, but Eric Young Jr. got the second run in by ripping a double over Hairston's head in right field. Murphy followed with a walk to bring Wright to the plate as the tying run, but Roark got the captain to pop out to end the threat.
It sure was nice to see the Mets score a couple of runs off of Roark after two straight shutouts, but they failed to finish the job on this dreary night in Washington. We at least got some excitement in the bottom of the seventh, though. With Jose Valverde on the mound and two outs, perenial thorn-in-side Greg Dobbs hit a single to center field and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Moore then made a bid for his third RBI of the evening with a single to left, but Young Jr. threw him out at the plate. The throw was a bit off line, but Recker made up for it with a great effort to dive parallel to the ground and tag Dobbs for the out.
The Mets play the Nationals again on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. Bartolo Colon and Gio Gonzalez will be your starters.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Bobby Abreu +7.8%, Carlos Torres +3.2%,
Big losers: Jon Niese -30.0%, Lucas Duda -9.6%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Young Jr. doubles home Recker in the fifth to make the score 5-2.
Teh sux0rest play: Werth singles in the first to give Washington a 1-0 lead, -13.4%
Total pitcher WPA: -25.2%
Total batter WPA: -24.8%
GWRBI!: Moore's RBI ground out in the first inning.