Some smart person wrote recently about how important it was for David Peterson to continue to produce for the Mets this season. He contributed towards that goal yesterday with another solid start, but he wound up getting completely outshined by—of all people—Tomas Nido, as the backup catcher hit two home runs and helped the Mets secure a series split against the Washington Nationals.
While Nido wound up being the hero of the game, he began it as the villain, as one of the Nationals’ two runs came in the first as a result of his costly error. After Peterson walked Trea Turner to lead off the affair, Adam Eaton followed up by hitting a soft dribbler in front of home plate. Nido grabbed the ball and threw it over to second, but he airmailed it beyond Gimenez’s grasp, turning what could potentially have been a double play into a runners on second and third with no outs situation. Peterson did not help his cause with the next batter, as he issued his second walk of the inning to Starlin Castro to load the bases for Juan Soto. Thankfully, the young rookie pulled himself together right then and there by striking out one of the best young players in baseball on three pitches. He followed that up by getting a bouncer up the middle off the bat of Howie Kendrick which bounced off his glove on the mound. He was able to recover in time to get the runner out at first, but the first run of the game had scored to make it 1-0 Nationals.
It could very easily have been worse than that if not for Jeff McNeil. With two outs in the inning, Asdrubal Cabrera—who has tormented the Amazins all series—smacked an 0-1 pitch to deep left field. McNeil sprinted to his left and made a leaping catch to rob the former Met of a run-scoring double and end the inning, slamming into the outfield wall in the process. While Peterson was elated at the run-saving catch, the focus immediately shifted to the well-being of one of the team’s best hitters. McNeil tried to hobble a few steps after making the catch but was mostly unable to get up, and he stayed on the ground for a long while before the cart finally came to take him away. He was subsequently diagnosed with a bone contusion on his left knee and is listed as day-to-day, which is probably as fortuitous an outcome as the team could have hoped for.
The Mets came up for their first turn around the order against Austin Voth in the top of the first, and Brandon Nimmo got things started with a leadoff double to right-center field. After a J.D. Davis strikeout, Billy Hamilton came up to the plate, having replaced McNeil in the outfield and thus in the number three spot in the order. While the swap represented a significant downgrade on offense, Hamilton did put up a very McNeil-esque at-bat by refusing to go down easily, as he forced Voth to throw twelve pitches to him before sharply lining out to center. A passed ball to the subsequent batter did move Nimmo over to third, but he wound up stranded there as Michael Conforto flew out to third to end the inning. Peterson came back out for the second and experienced much less drama than he did in the first, as he easily retired the side in order this time around. The Mets came back up to the plate, and following a leadoff groundout to short from Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith came up and smashed a solo homer to center-left field. Just like that, the game was tied at a run apiece.
Peterson made even quicker work of the Nationals in the top of the third, as he retired the side on just nine pitches. The Mets then threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the third by loading the bases thanks to a Luis Guillorme leadoff single, a hit-by-pitch to Davis, and a walk to Conforto. Alonso came up to the plate with two outs, at which point the Umpire Show began. Voth threw a 3-1 pitch to Alonso that hit the bottom of the strike zone, but was called a ball. The Nationals bench was understandably displeased with the call—along with the others that home plate umpire Carlos Torres had been making throughout the game up to this point—and Stephen Strasburg (who was sitting in the stands) wound up getting ejected, making an amusing exit in the process. Voth subsequently threw the exact same pitch to Alonso, but this time Torres called it a strike to end the inning, prompting frustration from the opposing dugout as well.
The umps further flexed their muscles by warning both benches after Soto was hit in the back by Peterson to lead off the top of the fourth. The rookie starter quickly rebounded from putting the leadoff man on by by retiring the next three batters, helped in part by a solid running catch in center field by Hamilton on a shot off the bat by Cabrera, marking the second time that the veteran was robbbed of a hit by a Mets outfielder. The Mets came up in the bottom of the fourth determined to succeed where they had failed in the previous inning in capitalizing off Voth. Smith started things off with a double to right center that was a few feet away from being his second homer of the game. Following a ground ball from Gimenez which moved Smith to third, Nido came up, and his redemption for his misplay in the first inning began. The backup catcher smacked a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left field for his first homer of the season, giving the Mets a 3-1 lead.
Peterson came out for the fifth inning and once again allowed the leadoff man to get on, as Yan Gomes smacked an opposite field single to start things off for the Nats. But once again, the rookie maintained his composure and stopped them from getting anything else, as he retired Michael Taylor, Turner, and Eaton (the last one on a swinging strikeout) to get out of the inning. That would wind up being the last frame for Peterson, despite a relatively low pitch count; after the game, Luis Rojas stated that he was experiencing some minor shoulder fatigue which compelled them to play it safe, although it is not expected to be a serious concern. The Mets are lucky that that is the case, because they are coming to rely heavily on the young lefty, whose season ERA is now 2.91 following his line (5 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 K) this afternoon.
Before Peterson was replaced, the Mets offense put more runs on the board in the bottom for the fifth. 2017 first-round pick Seth Romero came on to make his major league debut for the Nationals, and he quickly recorded his first major league strikeout against Hamilton. Conforto followed with a soft chopper along the first base line; the rookie pitcher was able to field the ball, but he was unable to make the throw to first in time, resulting in an infield hit. Alonso subsequently hit an opposite field single to put runners on first and second, but Smith then struck swinging to give Romero two outs. Gimenez worked a four-pitch walk to keep the inning alive, bringing Nido up to the plate once again in a position to do some damage. And do some damage he did, as Nido welcomed Romero to the big leagues by smacking an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left yet again for a grand slam, and Nido’s second homer of the game. The score was now 7-1 Mets, and Nido was responsible for six of those runs.
Jared Hughes entered the game in the top of the sixth, and after retiring the first batter he faced, Juan Soto got his revenge for having been hit by a pitch earlier in the game by knocking a solo homer to left center field to make it 7-2 Mets. While that bomb may have gotten Mets fans slightly down, the next play got their spirits right back up, as Hughes got his glove knocked off on a liner by Howie Kendrick before recovering to make the play. The image of the play subsequently delighted Twitter, drawing a post from Hughes after the game and inspiring this work of art. The lovable Mets reliever walked the following batter but managed to end the inning after that, and he subsequently came back on for the seventh and tossed a scoreless frame.
Little of note occurred for the Mets offense in the sixth and seventh innings, and Edwin Diaz—who has impressed mightily in recent outings—came on for the eighth inning. Two runners reached base, although neither one was really Diaz’s fault. Eaton led off the inning with a soft ground ball to third that Davis had to put in his pocket and following a pop out to second by Castro, Soto hit a sharp ground ball on the right side of the infield that Davis (playing over there in the shift) could not handle cleanly. He recovered and threw it to first, and Soto was initially called out on the play, but replays clearly showed that he was safe, and the call was thus overturned. The Nationals had runners on first and second with one out, and given past Diaz blow-ups in the past, it wasn’t that hard to envision a similar nightmare brewing. But instead we got to see the embittered reliever at his best, as he recorded back-to-back swinging strikeouts from Kendrick and Cabrera to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Mets decided to switch up the strategy they had been utilizing for most of the game and score without the long ball. After new pitcher Javy Guerra secured the first two outs, Billy Hamilton finally recorded his first hit as a Met with a single to right. Conforto followed suit with a single up the middle, and Hamilton showed off his speed by easily making it to third. Alonso then finished the mini-rally by recording a single up the middle of his own to drive in the run to make it 8-2. The Mets didn’t wind up needing the insurance run, although the Nationals did attempt a two-out rally of their own in the top of the ninth against Brad Brach. Following a strikeout and a groundout to begin the inning, Brach went on to load the bases on two singles and a walk, bringing Starlin Castro up to the plate with Juan Soto on deck. But while the Nationals have managed some improbable comebacks against the Mets in the past, no such devil magic prevailed this time around, as Castro grounded out back to the pitcher to end the game.
The Mets move on to Philadelphia to begin a three-game series against the Phillies on Friday night. Jacob deGrom will take the mound in the series opener.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Tomas Nido, +29.1% WPA
Big Mets loser: Billy Hamilton, -8.7% WPA
Mets pitchers: 17.9% WPA
Mets hitters: 32.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Tomas Nido hits a two-run homer in the fourth, +16% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Adam Eaton reaches on fielder’s choice and error by Tomas Nido to put runners on second and third in the first, -10.6 WPA