Eric Young, Jr. singled to center on Gio Gonzalez's first pitch on Friday night. Washington's 28-year-old left-handed starter hit New York Mets' center fielder Juan Lagares with an 0-2 fastball in the second at bat of the bottom of the first in Citi Field, and one out later walked Lucas Duda to load the bases in front of red-hot hitting 25-year-old catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who entered the game with a 14 hits in 33 September ABs, four doubles and a home run in nine games so far this month.
Gonzalez and d'Arnaud went to a full count before the Mets' backstop sent a line drive double into the left field corner and off the wall on a hop, driving in Young, Jr., Lagares and Duda, who scored on what was ruled an error on Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos when Duda knocked the ball free sliding cleat-first into Ramos' mitt after a near-perfect relay beat the runner to the plate. 3-0 Mets.
Gonzalez retired 11 of the next 13 batters he faced through three scoreless innings before Young, Jr. singled and scored on a double by Lagares in the fifth, a half-inning after an Anthony Rendon home run tied things up at 3-3.
Gonzalez then set eight straight Mets down to get himself two outs into the bottom of the seventh before Nats' skipper Matt Williams decided to go to his bullpen after 110 pitches from his starter.
The Nationals' lefty was not happy about the decision, shouting into his glove on the mound when the manager emerged from the dugoout and emphatically "placing" the ball in Williams' hand as he left the game.
Afterwards the two engaged in an animated discussion in the dugout and retreated to a tunnel to finish the conversation.
Once the game ended, Williams was asked about the heated exchange.
"I just wanted to explain to him it's not my objective to take him out there," he said. "but it's a good matchup too."
Williams brought right-hander Aaron Barrett out to face Lagares.
"The last time around Lagares hit a double down the line," Williams said, "seeing him good, it's his third time around, I want to leave him in and finish that inning and give him a chance to get off the hook, but it's a good matchup for Aaron too. And he's upset, and I understand that. But I also want to do the best job I can to help us try to win a game too. So we had a talk about it and he understands and I understand and that's as far as it goes."
"It's part of baseball," Gonzalez said when he spoke to reporters after the Nats' 4-3 loss in New York.
"You're a competitor, you want to pitch, you want to keep going. Matt did his best of defusing as much as possible. It's part of the sport. It's just high intensity, trying to keep the game close. You've got two outs. He's been part of it where it's part of baseball. You want to keep pitching. You want to keep going out there and try to save as much out of the pen. He has every right. It's two sides of that story too. He's doing his job as a manager, trying to make sure that I'm doing all right and I'm just being a player wanting to go out there and keep pitching. So it's not bigger than what it is."
Williams said he's well aware that Gonzalez is an emotional pitcher, prone to angry conversations with himself on the mound and public displays of his intensity.
"That's good," the first-year manager said. "He competes and wants to do well and we want him to do well too. But I've got to make a decision there and of course he wants to stay in and finish that inning and I can't blame him for that."
As for Gonzalez's reaction to being removed?
"It's part of the game," Williams explained. "That was our discussion. 'Listen, I'm not here to take you out of a game when you have a chance to compete, but I also have to make those decisions too,' so that's the discussion we had. And he understands and I understand him, that he wants to stay in there and fight for us and he has been. He's been pitching really well. Tonight they got him early, and then he settled in and gave us a chance again, so that's all we can ask."
"He's been a player too," Gonzalez said. "He knows how it feels to want to compete and give him the bat when he goes up to bat. Just like a starting pitcher, he wants the ball. Each one of these guys wants to pitch. We tried our best to defuse it."
Williams said he was happy with Gonzalez's outing overall, which saw him give up just six hits, a walk and four runs, three earned.
Gonzalez said he just wanted an opportunity to get the last out.
"Just save at least one more [for] the pen," he explained. "Just go after the guy. It's part of baseball. You've got two outs in the sixth, trying to shut it down in the sixth, trying to shut it down in the seventh and just one out away from having seven innings and again, you've just got to take it with a grain of salt and just move forward."
• We talked about the "heated" exchange, the Nats' loss to the Mets and more on last night's edition of Nats Nightly: