The Washington Nationals had the late game tonight since they were featured on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, so they knew before they started that the Cincinnati Reds had already lost to the Colorado Rockies, giving the Nats a chance to get back to 6.5 games out the second Wild Card spot with a win, in spite of the fact that they lost the first two games of their weekend series with the New York Mets.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, they were facing Jon Niese tonight in the finale of the three-game set with the Mets. Before tonight, Niese was (3-0) in six starts against New York's NL East rivals from D.C. with a 2.37 ERA, six walks (1.42 BB/9) and 39 Ks (9.24 K/9) in 38 career IP vs the Nationals. Niese was also (2-0) with a 1.35 ERA in four starts in the nation's capital heading into the Sunday night matchup.
The Nationals found themselves behind early tonight when Ross Ohlendorf gave up back-to-back doubles by Eric Young and Daniel Murphy, 1-0, and a one-out RBI single by Lucas Duda to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.
A 1-0 fastball up in the zone to Mets' outfielder Matt den Dekker in the top of the second ended up in the second deck in right, high above the out-of-town scoreboard in right field in Nationals Park. den Dekker, 26, collected his first MLB hit last night in the third game of his major league career, before connecting for his first MLB home run tonight. Ross Ohlendorf needed just ten pitches to get through the second, but the Nationals trailed 3-0 after one and a half.
Jayson Werth battled Jon Niese for ten pitches in the first at bat of the Nats' second, fouling off three full count pitches before doubling to left for his 14th two-base hit of 2013. Two outs later, with Werth having made his way around to third, Tyler Moore singled to center on a 2-2 cutter from the Mets' left-handed starter and drove Werth in to get the Nationals on the board down 3-1 to New York after two in D.C.
Ryan Zimmerman singled with two down in the Nationals' third, after Ross Ohlendorf threw a scoreless 16-pitch top of the inning. Zimmerman's single sent Anthony Rendon around to third after the Nats' rookie second baseman had grounded into a force at second but avoided an inning-ending double play. Jayson Werth stepped in with runners on the corners with two out, but a one-hop liner to Josh Satin at third got Jon Niese through a scoreless 16-pitch third of his own. 54 pitches for Niese, 42 for Ohlendorf after three.
After a scoreless 25-pitch fourth by Ross Ohlendorf, Ian Desmond hit a broken-bat single to center to start the bottom of the inning. Wilson Ramos improved to 33 for 75 (.440 AVG) career vs the Mets with the second straight single to start the fourth and a fly to right by Tyler Moore allowed Desmond to tag and take third before Scott Hairston connected for the third hit of the inning to bring Desmond in and make it a 3-2 game in D.C. Ohlendorf bunted both Ramos and Hairston over/gave up the second out of the inning, and Bryce Harper grounded out to first to end the threat.
Jon Niese doubled to right to start the Mets' fifth, sending a 1-1 fastball to right over Jayson Werth's outstretched glove and off the out-of-town scoreboard on a hop. Eric Young bunted his pitcher over/gave up an out, and Daniel Murphy hit an RBI single to center to bring Niese in and make it 4-2 Mets after four and a half. Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back singles to start the Nationals' half of the fifth, but Jayson Werth popped out on a hanging first-pitch curve from Jon Niese, Ian Desmond K'd swinging through a 1-2 fastball up high and... Wilson Ramos flew out to center to end the inning. Still 4-2 Mets.
Ross Ohlendorf's Line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 Ks, 1 HR, 79 P, 49 S, 9/2 GO/FO.
Craig Stammen took over for the Nationals in the top of the sixth and threw a scoreless 15-pitch frame. Tyler Moore singled off Jon Niese to start the bottom of the inning, but Scott Hairston K'd swinging through a 1-2 fastball up high and Steve Lombardozzi failed at bunting for a hit and settled for a sacrifice that moved Moore to second with Bryce Harper due up. Harper worked a walk out of Niese, and the Mets' lefty left the game after the at bat, with an as-yet undisclosed injury (Update: calf cramp). Anthony Rendon stepped in against right-hander Scott Atchison, and popped up on an 0-1 curve to end the sixth with the score still 4-2 New York.
Ian Krol, in his first inning of work after being called back up to D.C., gave up a one-out single by Eric Young and a stolen base with two down and Josh Satin up. After falling behind Satin, the Nats' lefty put the Mets' third baseman on with a two-out semi-intentional walk, but Lucas Duda made them pay with a two-out opposite field single to left that brought Young in for a 5-2 Mets' lead after six and a half. Ian Desmond singled with two down in the Nationals' seventh and took second and third on wild pitches to Wilson Ramos before scoring on the Nats' catcher's second hit in four at bats. (34 for 77, .442 AVG vs Mets). 5-3 NY after seven.
Erik Davis threw a scoreless inning of relief for the Nats in the top of the eighth. Scott Hairston singled to left to start the Nationals' half of the inning off Mets' lefty Scott Rice. Denard Span got a pinch hit single to stretch his current hit streak to 15 games (over which he's been 24 for 59, .407 AVG). Bryce Harper bunted both runners over/gave up an out. Right-hander Gonzalez German came on and gave up a hard-hit, one-hop liner to short by Anthony Rendon that brought in a run to make it 5-4. Ryan Zimmerman sent a hard-hit grounder up the middle in the next at bat, and Span kept running as Omar Quintanilla tried for the out at first, but threw wide of the bag. 5-5 game. Jayson Werth took a 2-1 fastball to right in the next at bat and it split the gap and brought Zimmerman around from first. 6-5 Nationals after eight.
Rafael Soriano took the mound in the ninth. "Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano! Strike him out, Soriano!" Eric Young K'd swinging at an 0-2 fastball! ONE! Daniel Murphy rolled over a 3-1 fastball, grounding out to first. TWO!! Josh Satin stepped in with two down and fell behind and went down swinging! Ballgame!!
Work's done! Untuck that jersey, son!!
Nationals now 69-67