It took twelve innings, but the Mets beat the Nationals on Sunday Night Baseball to complete a sweep of their rivals—the heavy favorites to win the division, if not more—and improve to 7-1 to begin this season. And there’s no such thing as a bad win over the Nationals.
Matt Harvey wasn’t great in his start, which he clearly knows based on his post-game remarks to the reporters that cover the team. He gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings, and the Nationals made loud contact on several of the outs that he recorded. He threw 85 pitches, 57 of which were strikes, with seven swinging strikes, and he struck out just two opposing batters and walked one.
The first two of those runs came on a no-doubt home run off the bat of Bryce Harper, who’s been doing his best to try to carry the Nationals, who have now lost five straight. But the Mets didn’t take too long to turn that two-run deficit into a two-run lead. With two outs and nobody on in the top of the third, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Asdrubal Cabrera worked walks against Tanner Roark to load the bases for Adrian Gonzalez, who promptly hit a grand slam.
That wasn’t Gonzalez’s only contribution to the win, either. With the team up 5-3 thanks to a solo home run from Cabrera in the top of the fifth, Gonzalez got Harvey out of his last inning of work with a heads up play. Trea Turner, who had just driven in Washington’s fourth run of the night, took too wide a turn around third base as Michael Taylor hit a weak infield single to the right side. Gonzalez saw that and made a quick, accurate throw to third, and Todd Frazier ran him right to Travis d’Arnaud and made an easy throw to complete the out without further engaging in a rundown.
From there, the focus shifted to the Mets’ bullpen, which was excellent once again. Things weren’t necessarily perfect, and Robert Gsellman reminded everyone that he is human by giving up the game-tying run in the fifth. But that wound up being the only run the entire bullpen gave up. Gsellman threw two innings, A.J. Ramos and Jerry Blevins combined for one, which ended somewhat suspiciously when Anthony Rendon got himself picked off by Blevins as Bryce Harper was down to a two-strike count—and Blevins was due up to lead off the ninth. If the Nationals or Rendon himself made that out intentionally, in an effort to give Harper a fresh count and a right-handed pitcher, it wouldn’t be shocking.
Either way, it didn’t work. Seth Lugo walked Harper on four pitches and gave him an extra base on a bad pickoff attempt that sent the ball rolling slowing into foul territory between first base and right field. If anything, the Mets caught a break that Harper only advanced to second when he could have easily made it to third. But after getting Matt Adams to fly out, which allowed Harper to take third, the Mets intentionally walked the next two Nats to load the bases.
From that point on, Lugo was brilliant. He struck out Michael Taylor and Pedro Severino, who had been a bit of a pest to the Mets throughout the series, to escape the inning. And he remained for two more innings, allowing just one baserunner—on a bunt single by Anthony Rendon in the tenth.
The intentional walk helped the Mets again in the top of the twelfth. With Juan Lagares on second base after reaching on a pinch hit single and being bunted over by Amed Rosario, the Nationals chose to give Michael Conforto a free pass to get to Yoenis Cespedes. The left fielder hadn’t had a great game, and at his best, he would have probably done more, but he looped a single into the shallow outfield beyond shortstop. That plated Lagares with ease and gave the Mets their sixth and final run.
That was enough for rookie Jacob Rhame, who got the first two batters he faced, gave up a two-out double to add a little bit of drama to the game, and induced a game-ending ground out to third from Adam Eaton.
The Mets swept the Nationals. They’re 7-1 to start the season, with sole possession of first place and the best record in the National League. Nothing is decided this early in the season, but racking up wins early is always a good thing.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Seth Lugo, +42.8% WPA, Adrubal Cabrera, +22.0% WPA, Jacob Rhame, +20.9% WPA, Yoenis Cespedes, +13.6% WPA
Big losers: Matt Harvey, -15.1% WPA, Amed Rosario, -12.1% WPA, Jay Bruce, -11.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Adrian Gonzalez hits a grand slam in the third, +35.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Adrian Gonzalez strikes out swinging, Asdrubal Cabrera gets thrown out at third in the 11th, -27.8% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +55.5% WPA
Total batter WPA: -5.5% WPA
GWRBI!: Yoenis Cespedes