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A surprising win in D.C.

Good pitching, good defense, and even a couple hits with RISP!

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In easily their most surprising game of the season, the Mets beat the Nationals 3-1 in Washington D.C.. That certainly wasn’t the outcome most expected with Rick Porcello squaring off against the mighty Max Scherzer, particularly with half the starting lineup hurt and the other half struggling at the plate. Some good fortune, good defense, and Porcello’s best start of the season flipped the odds on their head, however, and the Mets got a sorely needed win.

The top of the Mets’ lineup jumped Scherzer early. Brandon Nimmo walked and Michael Conforto singled, but Pete Alonso followed that up by striking out. It seemed we were headed for yet another inning in which the Mets failed to capitalize on an offensive opportunity, but Dom Smith came through with a sac fly in foul territory. That’s all the Mets would get - hardly ideal when you have first and second with nobody out - but even one run felt like a relief with the way the offense has performed recently.

Fittingly, Porcello immediately squandered that run. Doubles from Adam Eaton and the always pesky Juan Soto tied the game at one, and while that was all the Nationals got, Max Scherzer was still in the game - or so we thought. In the top of the second, the much more vulnerable Erick Fedde replaced Scherzer, who thankfully only suffered a hamstring injury and nothing serious that might rob baseball of one of its biggest stars. While the Mets didn’t immediately capitalize, this was undoubtedly a huge break for a team desperately in need of one (or several).

A couple more breaks went the Mets’ way in the fourth. First, a pair of singles again put two men on with nobody out, and Luis Guillorme capitalized with an RBI single that gave the Mets the lead. Again, not as much as you’d hope for, but better than nothing. In the bottom half, the Nats seemed poised to tie the game, as Juan Soto led off with a single and seemed destined for third after Asdrubal Cabrera singled two batters later. Instead, Michael Conforto made an excellent throw and Andres Gimenez made an even better tag, catching Soto as he slid past the bag. J.D. Davis followed that up with an incredible diving play to retire Eric Thames, short circuiting the scoring threat and preserving the one run lead.

This time. Porcello was able to make the lead stand up. Starting with the last out of the fourth, the former Cy Young winner put down the final ten batters he faced. He finished his outing after seven innings, throwing only 82 pitches (a fact that made Howie Rose incredulous) and striking out four while holding the Nationals to five hits and one run. His ERA still sits at a not-very-nice 6.92, but this was a huge step in the right direction after a couple rough outings.

Meanwhile. the Mets added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, with a walk from Nimmo, a single from Alonso, and a double from Smith getting to Sean Doolittle. Once again that was all the Mets would get, and it’s worth noting that despite managing three runs, they were still awful with men on base (2-for-11 with RISP, nine runners left on). Statistically, this is nothing but bad luck and should regress to average soon, but that doesn’t make things any less frustrating in the short term.

Winning would certainly help on that last note, of course, and Seth Lugo was brought in to ensure the Mets could salvage the last game of what has been a ghastly road trip. He made short work of the Nationals, needing only six pitches in the eighth before setting the side down in order in the ninth. He finished with a flourish, blowing a high fastball past Juan Soto to cap his own bounceback performance after he got shelled by the Braves last time out.

The victory improves the Mets to 5-8, still last in the NL East and out of even the expanded playoff picture. With margins so thin, that can change in a hurry however, and hopefully they can use this as a springboard to regain some of the ground they lost over the last week. Thursday is an off day before the first place, half-quarantined Marlins come to town, with Michael Wacha set to take the mound.

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Box scores

Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Rick Porcello, +38.7% WPA; Seth Lugo, +19.9% WPA
Big Mets loser: None
Mets pitchers: +58.5% WPA
Mets hitters: -8.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Luis Guillorme singles in the fourth to give the Mets a 2-1 lead, +11.1% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Juan Soto doubles to tie the game in the first, -9.8% WPA