Washington’s Nationals were well on their way to a fourth loss in four games against the NL East-leading New York Mets to start the season, and their 10th loss in 13 games overall, but they rallied in a six-run eighth in which they sent 12 batters up, scored two runs on bases-loaded walks, and four on two two-run singles, one each by Bryce Harper and Wilmer Difo, and took the series opener, 8-6.
It was an improbable comeback win for the Nationals, and hopefully the start of something good for Davey Martinez’s squad, which has struggled out of the gate in his first season on the bench.
Did Bryce Harper just hit a broken-bat home run?: Jacob deGrom’s ninth pitch of the game, a 96 mph first-pitch fastball to Bryce Harper, sawed off Harper’s bat, leaving him with nothing but the handle in his hands, but somehow the 25-year-old slugger powered it out to right field for an improbable two-out home run that cleared the right field fence in Citi Field to put the Nationals up 1-0 early in the series opener with the NL East-leading Mets. HR No. 8 of 2018 for Harper.
Matt Adams = Not an outfielder: Matt Adams tracked a fly to left off Michael Conforto’s bat with two out in the Mets’ half of the first, and made a leaping attempt at the wall, but came up empty, allowing Conforto to take second for what was ruled a double, and an RBI single by Todd Frazier in the next at bat tied things up at 1-1.
Hellboy’s Keys to Success: Davey Martinez told reporters before tonight’s game that righty Jeremy Hellickson, who was making his Nationals debut, would be fine if he could avoid the big inning.
“He’s going to go out there and compete,” Martinez said, “and the biggest thing for him is to stay out of the big innings. He’s very smart, and he knows how to do those kind of things.”
With some help from his defense, Hellickson avoided a big inning in the third.
Asdrubal Cabrera singled with one out. Michael Conforto walked. Todd Frazier stepped up with two on, and the Mets’ third baseman doubled to left on a 2-1 fastball that bounced off the base of the outfield wall.
Matt Adams played the carom, and made a strong throw in to shortstop Trea Turner, who threw a strike to the plate where Matt Wieters tagged a tumbling Conforto for the second out of the inning.
Hellickson then got the final out of the inning and limited the damage, 2-1 Mets after three.
Hellickson was up to 88 pitches with a runner on and two out in the fifth when Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez went to the bullpen for Shawn Kelley vs Todd Frazier, who started down 0-2, got to 3-2, but went down swinging, chasing a filthy slider out of the zone.
Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 88 P, 61 S, 3/1 GO/FO.
Mets’ Starting Staff: New York’s rotation started this week’s series against Washington with a major league best 2.58 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, which was the second-lowest mark in the majors, and a .209 BAA, which was the third-lowest among MLB staffs.
Jacob deGrom, who held the Nationals to four hits, three walks, and two runs, one earned, in D.C., started tonight in the series opener in Citi Field, striking out five of the first 10 batters he faced, with Bryce Harper’s broken-bat home run the only blemish in the first three innings.
deGrom was up to seven Ks and 10-straight Nationals’ hitters set down after a 1-2-3 fourth, and he erased a leadoff single in the fifth with a 6-4-3 DP, and worked around a two-out hit by Wilmer Difo to keep it 2-1 in the Mets’ favor after four and a half. He was up to 10 Ks after striking out Michael A. Taylor and Howie Kendrick around a single by Trea Turner in the top of the sixth.
Turner stole second base with two down, so deGrom put Bryce Harper on to get to Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped in 2 for 19 w/ RISP early in 2018 (.105/.190/.368), and grounded back to the mound, 2 for 20. Still 2-1 Mets after five and a half.
It was 4-1 Mets when deGrom came back out with a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh, picking up his 11th K along the way.
He came back out for the eighth at 84 pitches, and picked up his 12th K, but the second hit of the inning, a single through short by Turner, ended his outing after 103 pitches.
Jacob deGrom’s Line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 12 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 76 S, 6/1 GO/FO.
BULLPEN ACTION!!!: Matt Grace took over on the mound in the bottom of the sixth, and gave up a one-out walk to Juan Lagares, who promptly stole second, and took third while Jose Lobaton was striking out at the plate.
Jacob deGrom stepped in and the Mets’ new skipper, Mickey Callaway, called for a safety squeeze and it worked, with Grace booting it trying to rush to get the ball home. 3-1 Mets.
Another run scored on a grounder up the middle Trea Turner laid out for to get a force at second, 4-1.
A.J. Cole’s first pitch in the Mets’ seventh got hammered, but Michael A. Taylor tracked it to the center field wall, only to have it bounce off his glove as he leapt for it. Brandon Nimmo made it to third on the play, and scored on a two-run HR to right field by Asdrubal Cabrera in the next at bat, 6-1 Mets.
Seth Lugo took over on the mound for Jacob deGrom with two on and one out in the Nats’ eighth, and walked Howie Kendrick on four pitches, so Callaway went for the lefty vs lefty matchup with Jerry Blevins vs Bryce Harper with the bases loaded. Harper won, sending a two-run single through the right side on a 2-1 sinker, 6-3.
A.J. Ramos came on next to face Ryan Zimmerman (2 for 20 w/ RISP in 2018 and 0 for 3 on the night), and got him looking with a 1-2 fastball that caught the low corner outside (2 for 21 w/ RISP).
Pedro Severino tried to keep the inning alive, and did, lining a base-loading single to left.
Matt Reynolds, the former Met, took a four-pitch walk, 6-4, so the Mets’ skipper went to Jeurys Familia for a four-out save, but Wilmer Difo shot a single through the right side to drive in two runs and tie it up, 6-6.
Familia hit Moises Sierra to load’em back up, and Michael A. Taylor took the second bases-loaded walk of the inning to put the Nationals ahead, 7-6.
Brandon Kintzler got the ball in the bottom of the eighth, and retired the side in order in a 10-pitch frame, and Howie Kendrick led off the ninth with his second home run of the year on a line drive to left off Hansel Robles, 8-6.
With Sean Doolittle unavailable after pitching in each of the last two games, Ryan Madson got the save opportunity in the ninth.
Asdrubal Cabrera doubled with one down, but got thrown out by Pedro Severino trying to take third on a ball in the dirt for some reason. Michael Conforto sent a fly to left to end it.
Final Score: 8-6 Nationals
Nationals now 8-9