Headed into tonight’s game versus the New York Mets, the first of a four-game set, the Washington Nationals were a comfortable yet dangerous 8.5 games ahead of New York in the NL East; a sweep of the series on either side would swing the Nationals’ lead to either 4.5 or 12.5 games.
Tonight’s game, an 8-3 win, gave Washington another game of cushion thanks to an offensive outburst and another stellar performance from Gio Gonzalez at Citi Field.
Robert Gsellman, who allowed one run over six innings in his only previous career start against the Nats, got the start again on Thursday, facing off against Gonzalez.
Gsellman wasn’t nearly as sharp tonight as he was last September, however, allowing seven runs on eleven hits and three walks in only five innings of work.
Gonzalez, who was 9-1 in 14 career games against the Mets in Citi Field with a 1.62 ERA (16 ER/88.2 IP) before tonight, was nearly untouchable, only allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings of work.
Offensively, the Nats set the tone early, as Bryce Harper found his power stroke in the top of the first with a line shot that went out of the ballpark into the right field stands, the first of what would be an eight-run game for Washington.
HERE’S HOW IT HAPPENED:
Bryce Harper lined a 3-1 fastball (116.3 MPH off the bat, the hardest ball he’s hit in the Statcast era and tying Joey Gallo for the fourth-fastest home run by exit velocity this season) into the right field corner for a solo shot in the top of the first to put the Nats on top 1-0 on his 17th home run of the year.
Jose Reyes’ error (technically scored a hit) allowed Daniel Murphy to reach base in the top of the second, and Anthony Rendon’s ground ball off the third base bag put him on second and Murphy on third, but the bottom of the order was unable to cash in and stranded the runners.
Matt Wieters led off the fourth with a double down the right field line into the corner, and scored on Gio Gonzalez’s 1-out single into center field, extending the Nats’ lead to 2-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, Mets outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce combined for back-to-back doubles, scoring Cespedes and putting the Mets on the board, down 2-1. With Bruce on second and only one out, Gonzalez worked his way out of the jam, inducing two fly balls.
Brian Goodwin led off the fifth with an opposite field double off the wall in left-center field, and then advanced to third on Ryan Zimmerman’s line-drive single to right-center field.
Murphy knocked both runners in on a ground ball into the right field corner, putting himself at third and eventually scoring on Anthony Rendon’s pop fly into center that fell under Juan Lagares’ glove, putting the Nats on top by a score of 5-1.
Lagares left the game after the top of the fifth, pinch hit for by Curtis Granderson. The Mets later announced that Lagares had fractured the IP joint in his left thumb.
After Matt Wieters beat out what would’ve otherwise been an inning-ending double play, Michael A. Taylor made the Mets pay with a two-run home run to center field, giving Washington a 7-1 lead.
The fifth inning would be the end for Gsellman.
Gsellman’s line: 5.0 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 2 HRs, 83 P, 53 S, 6/2 GO/FO
Rene Rivera, leading off the fifth inning, launched a 3-2 fastball into right-center field that landed in the bullpen, a solo shot to bring the Mets within 5 at 7-2.
Trea Turner made a spectacular jumping catch on Curtis Granderson’s looper into right center, snagging the ball out of the air to end the inning.
Left-handed pitcher Josh Edgin entered in relief for the Mets to start the sixth; Trea Turner, leading off, hit a ground ball to third base, normally a routine out, but Wilmer Flores panicked and threw off-line to first baseman Lucas Duda, allowing Turner to reach base. Brian Goodwin capitalized moments later, hitting a double into the right-field gap, scoring Turner from first and extending Washington’s lead to 8-2.
In the meantime, Gio Gonzalez continued his dominance through the bottom of the seventh, throwing 106 pitches through seven innings over which he allowed only two runs and five hits.
Gio Gonzalez’s final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, 1 HR, 106 P, 70 S, 3/5 GO/FO
Certified Mets-killer Oliver Perez came on in the bottom of the eighth, recording two quick outs before Dusty Baker called on Joe Blanton for his third outing since returning from the DL.
Blanton then promptly served up a home run to Wilmer Flores before getting out of the inning, putting the score at 8-3.
After the Nats went 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, Baker handed the ball back to Blanton to close out the game, and he recorded three quick outs to end it.
The Nationals are now 40-26.
NATIONALS PREGAME NOTES:
- Heading into tonight’s game, the Nats were 4-2 against the Mets in 2017, 121-106 all time, and 70-45 against New York while on the road (both at Citi Field and Shea Stadium).
- Washington’s 21-12 (.636) road record is second in the National League behind the Colorado Rockies (25-13, .658).
- At 39-26 (.600) the Nationals own the fourth-best record in the National League, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (41-25, .621), Colorado Rockies (42-26, .618) and Arizona Diamondbacks (41-26, .612).
- With four more home runs, Ryan Zimmerman will pass Frank Howard (237) for the most home runs in D.C.-baseball history.
- NO ZEROS, NO JINX: As the Nationals move into the second third of the 2017 season, they have completed the first 65 games of the year without their offense suffering a shutout.
- Washington is the only team in the National League yet to post a goose egg, joined by Minnesota and New York in the American League
- The Nationals’ offense leads the National League in almost every category, including: batting average (.275), on-base percentage (.340), slugging percentage (.470), OPS (.811), home runs (98), extra-base hits (T1st, 238), runs (355), hits (629), and RBI (348), while ranking third in doubles (127).
- In 12 games during the month of June, Nats’ OF Brian Goodwin is hitting .306 (11-for-36) with one double, one triple, four homers, eight RBI, four walks and four runs scored.
- Before the game, the Mets announced that they plan to install additional protective netting at Citi Field, essentially running from home plate to the camera wells beyond the dugouts.
- Additionally, Mets second baseman Neil Walker underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a partial tear of his left hamstring and was put on the 10-day disabled list. Meanwhile, RHP Matt Harvey was diagnosed with a stress injury to the scapula bone in the right shoulder, and is expected to miss several weeks.
The Nationals are now 40-26.