What happened on the field was difficult to overshadow the news taking place off the field. Just hours before first pitch in Queens, it was revealed that Matt Harvey is considering season-ending shoulder surgery to deal with thoracic outlet syndrome – a syndrome that has affected multiple MLB pitchers. Prior to this news, we were left up to speculation as to what caused Harvey’s troubled start to the season, and this affliction is far more serious than the lighthearted fixes we suggested in May. Instead, it’s best wishes to Harvey however he decides to deal with this injury, and hopefully he’s recovering and healthy soon.
The Mets began the game in the same situation they were in the last series they faced the Nationals: behind just enough games to tie the NL East with a sweep. Early it looked like a repeat of the series prior where the Mets were unable to bring home enough players to supplement their pitching, but when Lucas Giolito faced the Mets for the third time around, things changed dramatically.
Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth following a three-HR outburst by the Nats in the top of the inning (Bryce Harper went deep for the fourth time in nine games for his 19th on the season, then Clint Robinson and Anthony Rendon went back-to-back for the fourth and ninth, respectively), the Mets’ offense was continually getting deep into at-bats with Giolito and finding themselves with runners on base, but they’d yet to convert these advantages into runs. Giolito, staying true to the concerns over his command as written in his BP call-up, walked three batters in the first three innings and was in danger of more; the fourth, however, saw rookie mistakes abound. Travis d’Arnaud and Jose Reyes both homered to bring the Mets within a run, and then Curtis Granderson doubled to bring Yoenis Cespedes to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Seemingly nervous, Giolito balked to bring Granderson to third, and a Cespedes double would’ve seen Grandy score even had the balk not happened. After a walk to Neil Walker, Giolito’s night was over. He was all over the place in the fourth and when he did find the strike zone, the Mets were able to find contact.
But the Nationals team that scored 20 runs over a three-game stretch the last time these teams played wouldn’t let the Mets win that easily. Instead, Bartolo Colon, following the fourth inning in which he found himself having given up multiple home runs in a game for the first time since May 12, didn’t recover well enough to last through the inning. Relief pitcher Oliver Perez inexplicably scored after recording his first hit since 2010 and Daniel Murphy, who drove Perez in, followed him home two at-bats later. Down 4-6, and which of the Mets’ big bats would they call upon to salvage this win? Why, none other than my main man everyday third baseman Wilmer Flores the millennial Ed Kranepool.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo both singled with no outs to bring d’Arnaud to the plate as the go-ahead run, but he struck out. As Flores entered the game, he was in the midst of a true hot streak – four home runs in his last four games. Seizing this opportunity, he lifted a ball out to left, and the Mets once again led. Granderson tried to keep the inning going with a double, his second of the game and adding to his own hot streak that saw him 9-23 coming into the game, but Walker struck out after an understandable intentional walk to Cespedes.
Hansel Robles pitched the top of the sixth and, save for an unexpected double by Perez, he left unscathed. It was time to add insurance runs, and Cabrera delivered with his 11th homer of the season. This proved the decisive factor as Daniel Murphy responded the next inning with a solo shot of his own, the eighth homer of the night to set a Citi Field record. Another Grandy run in the seventh brought the score to 9-7 Mets, where it would stay the rest of the game. Jeurys Familia faced the toughest part of the Nats lineup in the top of the ninth, but a Daniel Murphy ground-into-double-play-aided-by-a-slide-rule-call and Bryce Harper strikeout quelled any chance of a threat.
This was a complete team effort and showcased what the Mets offense could look like when they’re at their best, and thankfully it proved to be enough even when the starting pitching wavered. Every starting player save for Bartolo Colon recorded at least one hit and more than 25% of those hits were home runs. The Mets ultimately lived by the long ball, but their four doubles also showed that they’re not averse to extra-base hits that stay in the park. All in all, if the offense shows up like tonight the rest of the series, the Nats will leave Queens tied in the standings.
Baseball Prospectus is hosting BP Night at Citi Field on Saturday, including a team panel with GM Sandy Alderson and TJ Barra, manager of baseball R&D; a media panel featuring Mets beat reporters Anthony DiComo and James Wagner and Nationals beat reporter Chelsea Janes; and a BP and friends panel including former editor-in-chief Ben Lindbergh, managing editor Bret Sayre, minor league editor Craig Goldstein and BP Mets writers Jeffrey Paternostro, Jarrett Seidler, Mike Vorkunov and Maggie Wiggin. The game was supposed to be a Harvey-Max Scherzer start, but Logan Verrett will take the mound instead.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports