"We were at the stage of the game exactly where we would have drawn it up at the beginning and that's having Bobby [Parnell] in there with the lead in the ninth inning and it just didn't work tonight," manager Terry Collins told reporters, including ESPN.com New York's Adam Rubin, after the New York Mets blew a ninth inning lead and lost to the Washington Nationals tonight in the nation's capital. Parnell had converted seven straight saves before tonight's game, and he was handed a 2-1 lead after eight and a half in Nationals Park.
The Nats had just four hits after seven innings against Mets' starter Jeremy Hefner and one against reliever Brandon Lyon before the ninth, but the home team connected for three straight hits in the ninth to bring in the tying run, and after a base-loading walk, Steve Lombardozzi hit a walk-off sac fly to complete a comeback win that got the Nationals back to .500 at 29-29 on the season.
Ryan Zimmermann led off the ninth and doubled off the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center on a 96 mph 1-1 fastball, sliding in just ahead of Rick Ankiel's strong throw to second. A wild pitch moved Zimmerman to third and an RBI single by Adam LaRoche tied things up at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets made the decision to walk Roger Bernadina to load the bases with no outs, but Parnell couldn't put Steve Lombardozzi away and the Nationals' infielder eventually lined to left where Mike Baxter made the catch, but made it going back and had no hope of throwing LaRoche out at home. Ballgame.
Before tonight's game, the Nationals shocked some when they sent Danny Espinosa to the DL, designated both Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke for assignment and called up Anthony Rendon and Ian Krol at the same time they reinstated and recalled Jayson Werth. It was a positive end to a tumultuous day. "It capped a really terrible start to the day," Davey Johnson said after the win. "It's tough to send guys out of here. They're part of the family. And we didn't actually play that good until the last part of the game. I kind of brought my horseshoe out of the bullpen, [Tyler] Clippard. He's been kind of lucky. And it was a great finish. Makes the day worthwhile."
Asked about the ninth, Johnson pointed to Ian Desmond's double to left-center as the biggest hit of the game. "I had him show bunt on [Desmond]," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said, "He's one of my best hitters and best fastball hitters and that was the big hit of the ballgame right there. Desi didn't try too much with it, just smoked it. And then Lombo. He wouldn't take a walk, he wanted to drive [LaRoche] in, so a fitting ending."
Lombardozzi was in at short after the decision to give Espinosa a rest. How long Lombardozzi will be starting now that Rendon's up is unclear, but given the opportunity tonight the Nats' 24-year-old came through. "He's usually on swings at strikes," Johnson said of the infielder who fouled off high fastball after high fastball from Parnell before connecting for the sac fly. "I think he was swinging at anything that was thrown up there if it wasn't over his head. But it was a great at bat. Big win. We needed it."
The Nationals' offense wasn't exactly humming, but the team managed to pull one out. And the walk-off win had Nats Park buzzing like it was 2012.
"It was a typical ballgame," the Nats' skipper admitted, "where we didn't get much going, we didn't swing the bats, and then we got some big hits late and that was the big key. Maybe that will get us going."