5. Zimmermann vs the Mets: Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann held the New York Mets to three runs on seven hits in seven innings when the NL East rivals met in the nation's capital last month, striking out six batters in a 102-pitch effort in a 4-3 Nats' win in which he received no decision. All three of the runs he allowed and four of the hits came in a 26-pitch fourth in which Kirk Nieuwenhuis doubled in two runs and scored on an RBI single by Mets' catcher Kevin Plawecki.
"The fourth inning I gave up a couple base hits and hung a backdoor curveball to Nieuwenhuis and [he] hit it for a double and then a broken-bat hit and next thing you know there's three runs on the board," Zimmermann told reporters.
The Nationals rallied from a 3-0 deficit, however, with Michael Taylor driving in a run with a single in the bottom of the fourth and tying it up with a two-run single in the eighth before scoring on an RBI double by Danny Espinosa to make it 3-2 Nationals. That's how it ended.
"It was big for us," Zimmermann said of the win over the NL East's second-place team.
"Lose two to these guys and it's a whole different clubhouse right now. If we can win the series like we did, that's our goal going in, win every series, and we were able to do that."
Beating the Mets, who lined their rotation up out of the break with the series in D.C. in mind, Zimmermann said, was important.
"It was big," he explained. "They got their big three going against us and for us to win two out of three was definitely big and we're going to see them in a couple of series, up at their place and hopefully take two more."
Zimmermann took the mound tonight in Citi Field (8-6) on the year after 21 starts with a 3.36 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 23 walks (1.61 BB/9) and 92 Ks (6.44 K/9) in 128 ⅔ IP, hoping to help the Nats avoid a sweep that would leave the teams tied for the division lead.
His third start of the season against the Mets began with a quick, 17-pitch, 1-2-3 first. A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 second lefty Zimmermann at 26 pitches.
Kevin Plawecki walked in the first at bat of the fourth, giving New York their first baserunner of the game, and two outs later Curtis Granderson put the Mets up 2-1 with a bomb to right on a hanging 2-2 curve, bouncing one off facade of the upper deck before Daniel Murphy followed with the second straight home run, 3-1.
Yoenis Cespedes singled for the third straight two-out hit and Lucas Duda crushed a first-pitch fastball, hitting the third home run of the inning out to right to make it 5-1 after three. 24-pitch frame. 50 total after three.
Kevin Plawecki singled with one down in the Mets' fourth, but was stranded at the end of a 19-pitch frame that left Zimmermann at 69 total.
A six-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth left Zimmermann at 75 pitches.
Lucas Duda singled through the shift in the first at bat of the Mets' sixth, and two outs later, Kevin Plawecki walked, bur Zimmermann struck Noah Syndergaard out to end a 20-pitch frame. 95 total.
• Jordan Zimmermann's Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 3 HRs, 95 P, 65 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
4. Syndergaard vs the Nats: Noah Syndergaard, 22, gave up five hits and one earned run in five innings against the Nationals in his first start opposite New York's NL East rivals last month in the nation's capital, receiving no decision in a 4-3 loss in the finale of the Mets' three-game set in Washington, D.C.
He followed up on that outing with eight scoreless innings on the mound against the San Diego Padres in his last start before tonight's.
After the Mets took the second straight game against the Nationals last night, to pull within one game of first in the NL East, NY skipper Terry Collins told reporters that the rookie right-hander was excited about the chance tonight to take on the Nats in Citi Field.
Collins said the whole team was looking forward to the chance to try to sweep the three-game set with the NL East's division leader when play began.
"We're excited," Collins told reporters.
"We're very, very excited. We've got one of our guys going tomorrow who's been pitching his brains outs. We're going to go in with the same attitude we've had that tomorrow night is a big game. We can really get right where we want to be and I know Noah is all fired up about it so it's going to be a good night for us, I hope."
Syndergaard took the mound tonight on a bit of a run, having allowed two runs or less in six straight starts over which he had a 1.29 ERA, 10 walks (2.14 BB/9) and 43 Ks (9.21 K/9) in 42 IP, with a .164/.217/.240 line against.
His second career start against the Nationals began with a 14-pitch in which he gave up a solo home run to center field by Anthony Rendon. Rendon's first put the Nats up 1-0 after one.
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Syndergaard at 27 pitches total after two. Another 13-pitch frame left the Mets' right-hander at 40 pitches overall.
Given a 5-1 lead to work with, Syndergaard retired the Nationals in order in a quick 10-pitch fourth. 50 total.
Jose Lobaton's two-out single in the fifth snapped a streak of 13-straight batters set down, but he was stranded at first when Michael Taylor went down swinging at a 98 mph 2-2 fastball. 15-pitch frame, 65 pitches total, 6 Ks.
With one down in the sixth, Yunel Escobar smoked a first-pitch fastball, sending a solo home run in the PartyCity.com deck to make it a 5-2 game. Escobar's eighth. Anthony Rendon followed with a line drive to left and Bryce Harper followed with a single to center to put two on. Ryan Zimmerman sent a fly to left-center for out no.2 and Jayson Werth grounded out to second to end a 20-pitch frame. 85 total.
Syndergaard with first-pitch strikes to 17 of 23 batters he's faced tonight--74%. Fourth time in last seven starts he's reached that level.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 3, 2015
Ian Desmond singled to start the seventh but was doubled up on a grounder to second by Jose Lobaton and Michael Taylor K'd swinging to end an eight-pitch frame. 93 total.
Anthony Rendon singled with two down, but Syndergaard got Bryce Harper swinging for out no.3 of a 16-pitch eighth that left the Mets' right-hander at 109 total.
• Noah Syndergaard's Line: 8.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 Ks, 2 HRs, 109 P, 77 S, 8/3 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: The Mets entered the series finale with the Nationals 5-2 in their last seven games, looking for their eighth sweep of a series in Citi Field.
• The Mets six wins so far this season against the Nationals, were two more than they managed in 19 games last season, when New York was 4-15 against their NL East rivals from D.C.
• Mets' outfielder Curtis Granderson took a 16-game on-base streak into tonight's series finale, over which he was 20 for 66 for a .303 AVG with a .378 OBP over that stretch.
• With five wins in nine games on the current 10-game homestand in Citi Field, the Mets were 37-18 in NY in 2015.
• Last night's two-homer game for Lucas Duda was his fifth this season, and the 11th of his career.
• With hits in nine of his last 12 games, Ian Desmond was on a 13 for 43 (.302 AVG) with a triple, four home runs and five walks over that stretch.
• Bryce Harper's on-base streak endeed with his 0 for 5 game on Friday, but he's still reached base in 88 of 96 games this season and his .458 OBP before tonight was MLB's second-highest.
2. Turning Point(s): It took Anthony Rendon 110 plate appearances before he connected on his first home run of the 2015 campaign, but the 24-year-old right-hander got hold of a fastball from Mets' right-hander Noah Syndergaard in the first and hit one out to center that bounced off the black wall behind the center field fence to put the Nats up 1-0 early in the series finale in Citi Field.
• Jordan Zimmermann completed two scoreless and hitless, but a leadoff walk (on a questionable ball four) in the third hurt even more when he gave up a two-run home run to right by Curtis Granderson two outs later. Zimmermann hung a curve up for Granderson and Daniel Murphy followed with the second straight blast to right, taking a first-pitch fastball for a ride that put the Mets up 3-1 in the third. Yoenis Cespedes singled for the third straight and Lucas Duda did it again, hitting the second two-run blast of the inning to put the Mets up, 5-1.
1. The Wrap-Up: Felipe Rivero took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the seventh, and threw a scoreless 17-pitch frame.
Rivero came back out for the bottom of the eighth and threw a scoreless frame. Still 5-2 Mets.
Tyler Clippard gave up a one-out single by Jayson Werth, but nothing else.
Nationals now 54-49