With the Washington Nationals lead in the N.L. East almost secure, the nationally televised Sunday night game meant much more to the New York Mets than their visitors. The Nats even pushed ace Max Scherzer back a day to pitch at home on Labor Day rather than trot him out against the Mets on Sunday night.
The result? A lackluster performance against a mediocre pitcher with an 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and a 5-1 loss to the Mets, who kept pace with the St. Louis Cardinals, 1.5 games behind for the second wildcard in the N.L.
Starter Reynaldo Lopez, recalled just before the game, struggled with his control -- and the home plate umpire — from the start. He issued a five-pitch walk to leadoff hitter Jose Reyes, then Asdrubal Cabrera lined a single to right. A wild pitch moved both runners up. After Lopez struck out Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson lofted a sacrifice fly to left field and Reyes scampered home.
Lopez uncorked another wild pitch and Cabrera went over to third, but Wilmer Flores flied out to end the inning.
The Nats (79-56, +8.5 NLE) got that run back in the second, as Danny Espinosa crushed a 92 mph offering from Seth Lugo for his 21st homer, tying his career high. It was his third homer since his high-water mark on July 5 (.246). Since that date, his slash line is 180/283/251.
In the bottom half, Jay Bruce tried to go first to third with two outs on a single to center by pitcher Lugo, but Trea Turner’s throw nailed Bruce for the last out of the inning — his first MLB outfield assist.
With two outs in the third, Cespedes singled to right center, then Curtis Granderson launched a thigh-high fastball off the facing of the second deck in right to make it 3-1. Flores then laced a double in the right-center gap, and Lopez issued another wild pitch, moving Flores to third. But Bruce flied out to left to end the threat.
After an uneventful fourth inning, manager Dusty Baker gave Lopez the rest of the night off. In his four innings, Lopez allowed three earned runs on six hits and a walk, with three strikeouts and three wild pitches.
Mat Latos took over and had a perfect fifth inning, but in the sixth Flores lined a single to left, then Bruce homered off the top of the wall in left center to make it 5-1.
The Nats put two on with two outs in the eighth on singles by Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon against Addison Reed, but Wilson Ramos struck out looking on an inside fastball after a seven-pitch at bat.
After Latos, Baker trotted out just about every single reliever the team recently called up for roster expansion: Trevor Gott, Matt Grace, Rafael Martin and Sean Burnett, in succession. In fact, none of the Nats pitchers used on Sunday were on the roster before expansion on Sept. 1. That’s how much this individual game meant to them.
WP: Lugo (3-2) LP: Lopez (2-3) SV: None HR: Espinosa (21), Granderson (23), Bruce (29) E: None.
NEXT GAME: Monday at 4:05 p.m. against the Atlanta Braves. Max Scherzer (15-7, 2.89) hosts Ryan Weber (1-0, 5.24).
- New York’s win last night was their 10th in the last 14 games overall and it was the Mets’ second in the last nine with the Washington Nationals.
- In a joint Nationals/Mets-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: In Citi Field, the Nationals are 20-9 against the Mets since 2014.
- Washington’s 79-56 record after last night’s loss in the second-best record in the National League, behind only the Chicago Cubs (87-48).
- The Nationals’ +142 run differential is the third-best in the majors, behind the Red Sox (+144) and the Cubs (+223).
- The Mets, as a team, have hit 16 home runs in their last nine games, and their 181 total on the season are the second-most in the majors and the sixth-most in the majors.
- Mets’ infielder Asdrubal Cabrera has five home runs in his last seven games and six in his last nine, and he’s 21 for 50 (.420 AVG) with five doubles and six homers in 16 games since coming off the DL on August 19th.
- Yoenis Cespedes is (23 for 72) .319 AVG with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 21 games against the Nationals since joining the Mets.
- Bryce Harper is 26 for 74 (.351 AVG) with nine doubles, a triple, three home runs, 13 walks and 16 runs scored in 20 games since returning to the Nationals’ lineup on August 14th.
- Trea Turner’s 21-game on-base streak was snapped on Saturday night. Turner was 39 for 96 (.406 AVG) with five doubles, two triples, three home runs, 12 steals and 22 runs scored over the course of his on-base streak.
- Former Mets’ infielder Daniel Murphy started the night leading the NL in SLG (.595), doubles (tied, 38) and multi-hit games (51), and he’s second in AVG (.340), OPS (.979) and total hits (164).