Washington’s two-run seventh inning last night in Citi Field gave them a 3-1 lead in a back-and-forth battle with New York, but Nationals’ righty Wander Suero, who’d thrown a quick 11-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth, came back out for the bottom of the seventh and gave up a leadoff single, a one-out walk, and a three-run homer by pinch hitter J.D. Davis on a 1-2 curveball up in the zone and over the middle of the plate that Davis hit out to right for an opposite field blast.
Davis had a .412 AVG on breaking balls coming into the game. Suero, who has thrown his curve sparingly, had fooled a few batters with the pitch at that point, but went to it again and left one up that Davis crushed to put the Mets up, 4-3.
Manager Davey Martinez, asked for his thoughts on the pitch selection there, said the pitcher and catcher made the call.
“You’ve got Suero and [Yan] Gomes, and that’s the battery right there, and they thought that was the pitch to throw, and obviously he hit it out.”
Even then, the Nationals battled back again, and took the lead in the top of the eighth, tying it up two batters in with a single by Howie Kendrick and double by Trea Turner, 4-4, before a double by Juan Soto made it 5-4 with one down.
With two runners still on, however, Gerardo Parra K’d swinging and Victor Robles grounded out, and the Mets tied it back up with a homer by Pete Alonso on a 99 MPH 1-2 fastball from hard-throwing right-hander Tanner Rainey, 5-5, in the bottom of the eighth.
Alonso’s towering blast had to be reviewed to make sure it stayed fair, but the original call was upheld upon review.
“It looked foul, I mean that’s all I can say,” Martinez said after the 6-5 loss to the Mets, who walked off on the Nationals in the ninth. “They saw it, they had apparently a few people look at it, but it looked foul.”
“It’s frustrating,” Martinez said of the missed opportunity in the top of the eighth, before the Mets tied it back up. “Parra put a good at bat up, and ended up striking out there, and then we couldn’t get those runs in. We want to get them in, it doesn’t happen, but like I said, we still got the lead right there, so for me we’ve got to keep playing hard, keep playing hard, I mean the guys are — you know, the wins will come, I know they will, but they’ve got to keep getting after it. Like I said, although we didn’t win, I’ve seen some good things and I think we just got to clean up those little nuances. Like I said, the 0-2, 1-2 homers, you know at that particular moment, that’s when you’ve really got to make a pitch.”
Rainey, in his second outing in two nights after he made his debut with the Nationals in the series opener with the Mets, got ahead of Alonso, but couldn’t put him away. He struck out the next two batters, but the damage was done.
Martinez stuck with Rainey in the ninth inning, after he’d thrown 13 pitches on Monday, and 17 pitches in the eighth, and the righty retired the first batter he faced before back-to-back walks ended his outing.
Kyle Barraclough, who allowed seven of eight inherited runners to score this season before he took the mound, came on with two on and one out and got a force at second base that left runners on the corners before Amed Rosario beat out a grounder to short for a walk-off infield single.
Why did Martinez, whose every decision is under a microscope at this point, decide to stick with Rainey in the ninth?
“I liked Rainey a lot in that situation,” he explained. “I mean he’s throwing the ball really well, and I knew that when we got him, they said he was really throwing the ball well, and he did.
“I mean, he gave up the home run. I know what he was trying to do, he was trying to get the ball up 1-2, didn’t quite get it up enough, but he went after Alonso and then he struck out the next two guys, so ... and he went back out there, and I wanted to keep him around — obviously I can’t take him out of the game in the middle of an at bat — but I wanted to keep him out there and give him 30-31 pitches, he’s been up to like 34-35 pitches, so he was good, and I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I know you gave up the home run, it stinks, but you pitched well.’
“Suero, he was our guy in that situation, and he gave up a [1-2] home run as well, so it’s frustrating, it really is, but the guys are battling, but we’ve got to finish games. It’s a nine-inning game, we’ve got to start finishing games.
“We’re right there, but we’ve got to win, you know, the bottom line is we’ve got to start winning games.”
And why did he turn to Rainey (who’d, again, debuted the previous night), rather than going to Barraclough in the eighth?
“Like I said,” Martinez explained, “I liked the matchup with Rainey — with the velo and his slider. For me, the matchup was — like I said, he got ahead, and he just didn’t get the ball up.”
With all the bullpen issues they’ve had this season, is there a temptation to go with any new arm that has success when the other options have struggled?
“You’ve got to give them an opportunity,” Martinez said. “And I like what Rainey did. The biggest thing with Rainey coming out of Spring Training was strike throwing, and he showed the ability to do that, and he gave up a home run.
“I get it, and it stinks, and he doesn’t feel good about it, but struck out the next two guys, which is good, he went back out there and got an out.”
Did he give any thought to going with Sean Doolittle in the ninth?
“I thought about it,” he said. “I really did. And just all of a sudden you get one run and now you’re going in — or the game stays tied, and now you don’t have Doo, so I was confident with the guys we had in that particular moment.”