5. Fister's Turn: Last time out on the mound, in Atlanta, GA's Turner Field, Nationals' right-hander Doug Fister was not at his best. A leadoff walk came around to score in the first. After Washington rallied to tie at 1-1 after three, back-to-back singles started the home-half of the fourth, and though Fister got a double play grounder from the next batter, another run scored on the play to put the Braves back up, 2-1.
Fister held it there until the sixth inning, when Kelly Johnson took a 2-2 offering deep to right field for a two-run blast, and another run scored before the Nats' starter was done for the day with the Nationals trailing 5-1 in what ended up an 8-4 loss.
"The ball was up in the zone a little bit for him," Matt Williams told reporters. "He was in it until the swing from Kelly Johnson. But the ball was just up. He was elevated today, but he battled out there."
It's been a problem for Fister early this season, pitches up in the zone, and especially in his last two starts, in which he's given up a total of 17 hits and 10 runs, eight earned in 11 ⅔ IP over which opposing hitters have put a combined .378/.412/.600 line.
"Ball is just elevated just a touch," Williams said.
"Throwing it in there, but it's just up around the belt which is not characteristic of him. Generally he's down. The last couple of times out it's been elevated, just a little bit, so he's working on it."
This afternoon in New York, Fister looked to turn things around against a Mets team he's fared well against in the past.
In four starts against the Nationals' NL East rivals before today's, Fister was (4-0) with a 1.01 ERA, three walks, seven Ks and a .252/.280/.311 line against in 26 ⅔ IP.
Three of the four wins came in Citi Field, where he took the mound with a 1.40 ERA and a .263/.300/.342 line against in 19 ⅓ IP.
With the score 1-0 after a half-inning, leadoff man Curtis Granderson started the Mets' half of the first with a line drive single to right, and Juan Lagares bunted for a hit in the second at bat to put the first two runners on. Three outs later, however, both runners were stranded and Fister was through one on 20 pitches.
Fister retired the side in order in a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 32 pitches. Juan Lagares singled with two down in the Mets' third, but Lucas Duda grounded out into the shift to strand Lagares and end a 17-pitch frame that left Fister at 49.
Michael Cuddyer K'd swinging through a 2-2 sinker for the first out of the Mets' fourth. Daniel Murphy grounded out to second on the first pitch he saw. Kevin Plawecki stepped in with two down and grounded out to short to end a seven-pitch frame that left Fister at 56 after four.
Dillon Gee slowed Fister's roll with a two-out single by a diving Yunel Escobar at third, and Curtis Granderson battled for 10 pitches before striking out on a 12-to-6 bender to end a 20-pitch frame. 76 total for Fister after five.
Juan Lagares, Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer went down in order in an eight-pitch sixth that left Fister at 84 pitches.
Kevin Plawecki got a changeup up in the zone from Fister and lined it to left field for a one-out double, after which Matt Williams decided to go to the bullpen... [ed. note - "Skip to no.1 for the exciting conclusion."]
• Doug Fister's Line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 89 P, 68 S, 6/6 GO/FO.
4. Gee Whiz: Dillon Gee, 29, is (0-1) this season, but the Mets have won each of his last three starts, including a 7 ⅔-inning effort last time out on the road in Miami in which the right-hander held the Marlins to just one run on six hits and threw just 70 pitches overall but received no decision.
That outing left the veteran of five-plus major league seasons with a 4.26 ERA, a 3.85 FIP, three walks (1.07 BB/9) and 15 Ks (5.33 K/9) in 25 ⅓ IP so far in 2015, over which he's held opposing hitters to a .278/.297/.454 line, though left-handed hitters are doing well against Gee, with a .346/.352/.519 line (18 for 52) thus far vs a .200/.234/.378 line vs RHBs (9 for 45).
This afternoon in New York's Citi Field, Gee was facing the Nationals for the seventeenth time in his career, after having gone (8-4) in the first sixteen starts against the Mets' NL East rivals, over which he put up a 3.69 ERA, 30 walks (2.70 BB/9), 70 Ks (6.30 K/9) and a .254/.316/.433 line against in 100 IP.
His five wins against the Nationals since 2013 were tied for the most in the majors over that period with A.J. Burnett, though he'd allowed four runs, all earned, in four of his last five outings against Washington with a 5.83 ERA in 29 ⅓ IP over that stretch after going (7-2) with a 2.80 ERA in his first 11 starts and 79 ⅔ IP against the Mets' divisional rivals.
In his fifth start of the season this afternoon, Gee walked Span in the first at bat, then got two ground ball outs on which the Mets couldn't turn double plays.
Bryce Harper stepped in with Jayson Werth on first and two out, worked the count full and lined a two-out single to center. Ryan Zimmerman came up with two on and two out and dropped a broken-bat single into right field to bring Werth in from second and make it 1-0 early. 20-pitch first for Gee.
Gee settled in with a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 27 total after two. Jayson Werth walked with two down in the third, but Bryce Harper had his bat broken bay a first-pitch cutter and grounded out to first to end a 19-pitch frame that pushed Gee up to 46 pitches.
Michael Cuddyer pulled a potential home run by Ryan Zimmerman off the top of the left field wall for the first out of the Nats' fourth, but Ian Desmond hit a one-out double over Cuddyer's head in the next at bat. One out later, Gee issued an intentional walk to Jose Lobaton to get to Doug Fister and struck him out to finish a 15-pitch frame at 61 pitches.
Denard Span doubled to left in the first at bat of the fifth, hustling around to second on the grounder, then took third on a single to center by Yunel Escobar. Jayson Werth stepped in with runners on the corners and no one out and took an 0-2 fastball knee-high inside for a called strike three. Bryce Harper started up 3-0 in his one-out at bat, and popped up behind second. Ryan Zimmerman came up with two out, fell behind 0-2 and K'd swinging at a fastball up high to let Gee off the hook. 15-pitch frame. 76 total.
Ian Desmond walked to start the Nats' sixth, taking the fourth walk of the day from Gee, and took third on a double to left by Danny Espinosa that Michael Cuddyer misread and couldn't catch up to. Jose Lobaton stepped in next and took another walk that ended Gee's outing... [ed. note - "Action picks up in no.1 below."]
• Dillon Gee's Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 5 Ks, 94 P, 54 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
3. Citi Field Advantage: The Nationals were 15-4 against the Mets overall last season, and though the Mets have already won three games against the defending NL East Champions this year, taking 2 of 3 in the first series in Washington D.C. and Saturday night's matchup in New York, they're still just 2-16 in the last 18 games against Washington in their own home and after last night's 1-0 loss, the Mets are 4-16 in the last twenty one-run games between the divisional rivals.
The Mets are 11-2 in games in Citi Field this season, though both of the losses are to the Nats.
Could they take the series finale this afternoon and improve to 4-3 against the Nationals in 2015, matching their win total against Washington after seven games, while keeping the 6.0 game lead in the NL East over the 4th place Nats they started the series with on Thursday?
Nope. 1-0 Nationals, and the Nats take three of four in NY.
2. Turning Point(s): Dillon Gee gave the Mets' infielders two opportunities to turn double plays in the first, but Ruben Tejada had the ball slip out of his hand the first time and a throw to first by Dilson Herrera arrived late and allowed Jayson Werth to reach first in the second instance after Werth grounded into a force at second in the next at bat.
Bryce Harper came up next and lined a single to center that moved Werth into scoring position at second and Ryan Zimmerman drove him in with a broken-bat single to right that made it 1-0 Nats after a half-inning in Citi Field.
Denard Span hustled for a double on a grounder to left in the first at bat of the fifth, then took third on a single to center by Yunel Escobar, but both runners were stranded after Jayson Werth K'd looking on an 0-2 fastball, Bryce Harper popped up swinging on a 3-0 fastball and Ryan Zimmerman K'd swinging on an 0-2 heater up high. Not good.
The Nationals loaded the bases with no one out in the sixth, but Doug Fister K'd swinging for out no.1. Denard Span K'd swinging for out no.2. Yunel Escobar K'd looking at a 1-2 heater inside. Bases left loaded.
1. The Wrap-Up: Alex Torres took over for Dillon Gee, inheriting a bases-loaded, no out jam in the Nationals' sixth.
Doug Fister tried to help his own cause, but K'd swinging at a 2-2 fastball after an eight-pitch battle. Denard Span K'd swinging at a 1-2 change. Yunel Escobar fell behind 1-2 swinging through a 1-1 heater and took a called strike three. 3 LOB.
Torres came back out for the top of the seventh and retired the Nationals in order.
Tanner Roark inherited a runner on second when he came on with one down in the Mets' seventh.
Ruben Tejada worked the count full after starting down 0-2 and, but K'd swinging at a running fastball in on the fists. Dilson Herrera sent a fly to right to end the threat. Still 1-0 Nationals.
TAN-NER RO-ARK TAN-NER RO-ARK— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 3, 2015
Erik Goeddel came on for New York in the top of the eighth and gave up a leadoff double by Ian Desmond, but two outs later Desmond was still standing on second when Mets' skipper Terry Collins went to the 'pen for left-hander Sean Gilmartin with Clint Robinson up to pinch hit. Matt Williams countered with Tyler Moore, but Collins walked him intentionally to get to Denard Span, who grounded out to second to end the frame.
Matt Thornton walked John Mayberry, Jr. in the first at bat of the Mets' eighth. Curtis Granderson sent one back to the mound, off Thornton's glove, to Danny Espinosa, who made the throw to first in time. Thornton stayed on to face Juan Lagares, and started down 3-0, got a called strike, 3-1, a foul ball, 3-2, and missed with a fastball to issue his second walk of the frame. Lucas Duda (who's been mashing lefties) stepped in with two on and no one out. A wild pitch from Thornton moved both runners up. Duda fell behind 0-2, and K'd swinging at a 1-2 slider.
That was it for Thornton. Aaron Barrett came on to face Michael Cuddyer... got ahead, 1-2 K'd on a check-swing strike three on a slider in the dirt.
Jeurys Familia threw a quick, scoreless top of the ninth.
Drew Storen came on for another save opportunity. Daniel Murphy grounded out to first. ONE! Kevin Plawecki fell behind 0-2 and popped a 1-2 pitch up to Yunel Escobar at third. TWO!! Pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis worked the count full and popped out to short to end it. Ballgame.
Nationals now 12-14