WASHINGTON, D.C.: Washington was down 5-0 after three, but the Nationals battled all the way back to tie it up at 5-5 in the seventh, only to fall behind on an Amed Rosario home run to center on an 0-2 fastball up in the zone from Joe Blanton that the Mets’ rookie shortstop hit out to center for a go-ahead home run that was the difference in New York’s 6-5 win.
Rosario had no business hitting that ball out, but for Blanton, it was more of the same in a rough season in D.C. that’s seen the veteran right-hander give up 10 home runs in 37 IP after he gave up seven home runs total in 80 IP with the Dodgers in 2016.
In spite of the deflating nature of that homer, coming right after they’d tied things up, the Nationals gave themselves a chance to win in the ninth.
Michael A. Taylor and Alejandro De Aza went down swinging for the first two outs of the home half of the final inning, though De Aza’s third strike was controversial since both he and Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker were sure he’d fouled it off, but the Nationals still had a shot after Adam Lind singled, and was replaced on first by Edwin Jackson, who ended up getting thrown out at home plate on a Daniel Murphy single that left fielder Travis Taijeron whiffed on and Juan Lagares bobbled before throwing it in to cutoff man Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw a strike to catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who did block the plate, and make the tag on Jackson for the final out.
Breathless, recap right. Edwin Jackson’s recollection of the play was just as exciting.
“My first [thought],” Jackson said, “... see Murphy hit the ball, see it go past the second baseman, my first thought is, ‘Okay, I know I’m going to third, definitely a first-to-third play.’ As I go to third, I guess I’m not anticipating the ball going under his legs, so I’m looking at [Bobby] Henley, the third base coach, and I was kind of slowing down to stop right there, I get the wave to keep going so try to continue at my pace and probably took a half a step/chop around third, because I was slowing down at first, to try to pick it back up once I see him waving me around, and running home I see Howie [Kendrick on deck] telling me to get down and I slide — try to get around the [tag] and it was a perfect throw from the outfield from — I’m guessing the second baseman, I’m guessing Asdrubal, perfect throw and get me out at home.”
Did he think that d’Arnaud blocked the plate?
“I seen a body and I seen him get it down,” Jackson said. “[Kendrick] was telling me to swing out wide to the right, so as I was going I saw the catcher blocking the plate, either — I have two options, either try to slide around him or run him over, but going back looking at the replay it definitely looked like he was blocking the plate.”
“We thought that he blocked the plate,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the 6-5 loss.
“He didn’t give him a lane,” Baker said, so he challenged the play, “... and it didn’t take them very long to make that decision from New York, but from where I was it didn’t look like he had any chance of touching the plate, and that’s what it looked like to me.”
Baker was fine with his third base coach’s decision to send Jackson, but hot about the call at home and the third-strike call on De Aza, on what he definitely thought was a foul tip.
“When the guy overran it out there,” he said, referring to the Mets’ outfielders on the final play, “they got to make two perfect throws to get him at the plate and Jackson runs well. That same inning, from where we were it was clearly a foul tip. We wanted him to get some help and he said he would have overruled it had somebody said he foul-tipped it, and so that was a series of bad events for us.”
“It was obvious,” De Aza said, when asked if he thought he’d fouled the third strike off.
“It was obvious. I don’t what was wrong, and I don’t know if he heard it, but I think everybody in the dugout heard it.”
“I told him right away, ‘Foul. I fouled it off.’ And he didn’t tell me anything and then all of a sudden he was like, ‘Out.’ I told him, ‘That was foul,’ because if I didn’t hit the ball, if I didn’t touch the ball, I’m running.”
“We had a good case both times, I thought, on the foul tip and the replay,” Baker said.
“You guys probably saw it on TV in slo-mo, but clearly that was a foul tip and clearly they didn’t give him a lane to try to touch the plate. I thought they changed those rules for that purpose to protect the catchers, but what happens when the catchers don’t protect themselves, and is that okay? That was a tough one to lose, because we came back, big time, and Joe [Blanton] had [Rosario] 0-2, was going to waste a pitch and didn’t get back to the next pitch. The ball was over his head.
“I don’t know how many men we left on base, we didn’t really get the bunt down, and then we left a lot of runners on base, I don’t know how many we left on base, 12-13 guys on base, and we were one hit away from taking the game.”
The Nationals left 13 on base, and went 5 for 16 with runners in scoring position, and they dropped the second game of three with the Mets in D.C.