Come for the pitchers’ duel, stay for the clutch long balls.
The Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets, 3-2 on Monday evening behind seven scoreless innings from Stephen Strasburg and some late heroics courtesy of Michael Taylor.
Steven Matz was equally brilliant for New York, but it was ultimately the bullpens that made the headlines in this one.
With one out in the eighth inning, Taylor launched a two-run homer off Jerry Blevins to break the tie.
Taylor reached base twice in the game, continuing his hot streak despite moving up to the No. 2 spot in the order following Trea Turner’s injury.
The Nats flexed their muscles defensively with a few highlight-reel plays all around the diamond.
Matt Wieters caught Jose Reyes stealing in the third inning and Brian Goodwin threw out Brandon Nimmo at the plate with a one-hop throw in the eighth.
Matt Grace and Joe Blanton combined to throw a scoreless eighth and Sammy Solis recorded two outs in the ninth before Matt Albers got his hands on the ball.
He was brought in to face Curtis Granderson, who promptly hit a two-run homer just over the wall in right to tie the game and hand the Nats yet another blown save.
Ryan Raburn was the unlikely hero for Washington, hitting a blooper in front of Yoenis Cespedes in left with two outs and runners on first and third in the bottom of the ninth to hand the Nationals an uneasy victory in D.C.
Nationals now 49-34.
Here’s how it happened:
• Stephen Strasburg entered Monday’s contest coming off a seven-inning performance in an 8-4 win over the Chicago Cubs in which he allowed three runs (two earned) and struck out 13. He started off pumping strikes against the Mets, throwing just five balls in the first two innings.
• For every scoreless frame Strasburg put together, Steven Matz matched him step-for-step. The Nats were able to record a hit in each of the first four innings, but they were unable to capitalize on the baserunners.
• Strasburg’s fastball was crisp and seemingly always found its spot, topping out at 98 mph. He wasn’t picking up strikeouts like he did against Chicago, but the Mets weren’t finding much luck with the bats.
New York was able to work three walks in the top of the fourth, loading the bases for Travis d’Arnaud with two outs. d’Arnaud battled to a nine-pitch at-bat, but Strasburg was able to get him looking with a well-placed fastball on the outer half to end the inning.
• Both pitchers got through the seventh inning unscathed. Pitch counts eventually did them in and forced their managers to go to their bullpens, but both starters were spectacular in D.C.
• Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 105 P, 72 S, 4/8 GO/FO
• Steven Matz’s Line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 112 P, 69 S, 6/5 GO/FO
• For the top of the eighth, Dusty Baker opted to send Matt Grace out to the mound. Brandon Nimmo reached on an infield single to lead off the inning, then moved to second when Matz laid down a sacrifice bunt.
When next man up Jose Reyes sneaked a groundball through the left side of the infield, Nimmo rounded third and broke for home. Brian Goodwin had other plans, however, throwing home and beating Nimmo for his fourth outfield assist of the season to keep the game tied.
Grace then walked Asdrubal Cabrera to put runners on first and second with two outs and Joe Blanton was brought in to face Yoenis Cespedes. He got the Nats out of the jam, forcing a weak grounder to short.
• With the game still locked at 0-0, Terry Collins gave the ball to former National Jerry Blevins in the bottom of the eighth. Blevins got one out before walking pinch hitter Ryan Raburn to bring up Michael Taylor. The center fielder cranked a two-run shot over the wall in right to finally put a crooked number on the scoreboard and give the Nats a 2-0 lead.
• That brought up a save situation in the top of the ninth, and Baker went with Sammy Solis to start the frame. He gave up a one-out single to T.J. Rivera but was able to strike out Lucas Duda looking and hand the ball over to Matt Albers with Curtis Granderson up. Albers got the aging outfielder into an 0-2 count, but Granderson changed everything with a game-tying homer just over the wall in right.
• So this game went to the bottom of the ninth, and Paul Sewald was on the mound for the Mets. Matt Wieters drew a leadoff walk off him and Wilmer Difo struck out by bunting foul with two strikes before Collins went to Josh Edgin. He walked Stephen Drew to bring Adam Lind to the plate with the winning run in scoring position.
Lind hit a deep fly ball to center that wasn’t enough to get out of the park but was deep enough to allow Wieters to tag up and go to third. Raburn stepped into the box with two outs and hit a soft liner to left. The ball just managed to drop below the glove of a sliding Cespedes and the Nats somehow managed to grab a series-opening win over New York.