What was rookie reliever Mason Thompson doing in a high-leverage situation like the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night, protecting a 3-2 lead with with two men on and one out, and lefty pinch-hitter Michael Conforto looming?
“But I thought first and second, give him a chance to try to get a ground ball, he’s got a good sinker, he just — one bad pitch, but other than that I thought he threw the ball really well after that.”
Martinez didn’t elaborate on who he might have used instead of the 23-year-old right-hander, who came from San Diego in a trade-deadline deal for Daniel Hudson.
But Thompson’s first pitch, a 94 mph sinker over the outer half of the plate, was the one Conforto crushed over the center field fence, not far from the Big Apple home run sculpture, emblazoned this night with No. 36 to honor Mets’ great Jerry Koosman.
“I think he wanted to get it down and I think he wanted to throw it more out of the zone, said Martinez. “In that situation, if Conforto is coming off the bench swinging, you kind of want to make a pitcher’s pitch, you really do, I mean, and he knows he’s trying to get a ground ball right there.”
It was the Mets’ third homer of the game, and it was enough to negate another big offensive night from the top of the Nationals’ batting order, center fielder Lane Thomas and shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Kevin Pillar hit the Mets’ previous homers, both big blasts to left field with nobody aboard, off Nats’ lefty starter Sean Nolin.
Those two runs were enough to match the Nationals’ offensive output through six innings.
That all came from No. 2 hitter Escobar, who had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, and the leadoff man Thomas, who scored one run, and drove in another, with a pair of doubles.
“I just feel very comfortable at home plate right now. I’m consistently hitting the ball well, and I just hope to continue the hitting streak,” Escobar told reporters.
“Just keep working as I have been and stay focused at home plate trying to look for a good pitch to hit, and hopefully that will continue the hit streak.”
Martinez continued to rave about the veteran shortstop, who came in a mid-season trade for cash from Kansas City.
“He’s staying on the ball, he’s hitting the ball the other way, he’s really working good counts, and he’s being aggressive at the same time, he’s staying on top of the baseball, and just trying to hit line drives,” said the manager.
Thomas’s second-inning double off Mets’ starter Marcus Stroman brought on Luis García, who was 1-for-3 with a walk.
Escobar followed with his first hit of the night and second of four times on base, driving in Thomas.
Pillar’s homers off Nolin came in the third and fifth innings, both on balls in the upper half of the strike zone.
“The changeup the first at bat was definitely not supposed to be there,” Nolin told reporters.
“I was trying to throw it just like the other ones, kind of down and away just low and it just popped out of my hand and kind of just spun there.”
Nolin’s location was off again on the second homer off his fastball.
“Didn’t get up or in enough,” he said.
The Nats took the lead in the top of the seventh, when Riley Adams led off with a single against Trevor May, and Escobar moved him to third with his third hit of the night with two out.
Juan Soto came up looking for a go-ahead hit, but May’s wild pitch brought in Adams to give the Nats a short-lived 3-2 lead. Despite Soto’s strikeout two pitches later, Martinez credited Soto’s reputation for the run.
“Pitchers tend to not give in to Juan, and they try to make pitches, and that was a situation where he didn’t want to throw the ball over the plate, he threw it down, and it was a wild pitch, and we were able to score,” said Martinez. “That’s just Juan being Juan. He knows the strike zone well and he’s not going to chase.”
Ryne Harper could get only one out after yielding a leadoff single to Jeff McNeil and hitting PIllar, before Thompson surrendered the go-ahead homer.