Back when Davey Johnson was managing the Nationals to their first playoff appearance, they played a bunch of close games with the Mets. But those games never felt too close. Those Nationals were one of the league’s best run prevention teams. Washington has acquired more talent since 2012, but one look at their bullpen and they don’t have that same aura of inevitability. The Drew Storen implosion and Jonathan Papelbon choke-jobs may not feel so bad to Nats fans now.
What happens when the Nationals bullpen of horrors runs in to the Mets’ season of horrors? It took until Saturday to find out. Seth Lugo gave up the lead on his second pitch – a dead center fastball that Trea Turner knocked out of the park. He also gave up an upper deck homer to Jose Lobaton in the second, followed by up another run in the third and an unearned run in the fourth. He did a good job expanding the zone to get strikeouts once he had two strikes, but he also left some pitches over the heart of the plate that got hammered.
Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce helped the Mets climb back in to the game. Cespedes singled to lead off the fourth, then went first to third on a Bruce line drive single. Wilmer Flores grounded into his double play of the day, but that was still enough to get a run. Cespedes and Bruce did the same thing in the sixth, and this time Flores elevated the ball enough for a sacrifice fly. Lucas Duda walked, and that was enough for Dusty Baker. Instead of pushing Stephen Strasburg past 106 pitches, he turned to his much-maligned bullpen for 11 outs and the go-ahead run at the plate.
It took demoted closer Blake Treinen all of four pitches to get out of the jam as T.J. Rivera grounded to third for an easy 5-3 double play. The Mets got the tying run on again in the seventh after some sloppy fielding put Jose Reyes on second with no outs, but couldn’t get another hit. An Adam Lind upper deck homer against Paul Sewald made it 6-2, but we’re still talking about the Nats bullpen. Cespedes homered to lead off the eighth. Flores got a one-out single and the Nats turned to hard-throwing lefty Enny Romero. If you ever need to prove to someone that Major League hitters can handle someone who throws nothing but 98 mph fastballs, show them Romero. Duda flew out, but Travis d’Arnaud had a pinch hit single and Reyes singled for another run.
With the go-ahead run on and two outs, Terry Collins faced a tough decision. The Mets’ starting catcher has cooled off considerably since the unlikeliest hot streak in baseball, and the Nationals have figured how he’s extremely vulnerable to high fastballs. Collins only options were Rivera, using Curtis Granderson for a tough lefty-lefty matchup, or asking Gavin Cecchini to get his first big league hit of the season. He stuck with Rivera, and Rivera set a personal record: Saturday was the first time he ever went 0-4 with four strikeouts. Mets doom seems stronger than Nats bullpen doom in 2017.
Cespedes Looks Good Running
Cespedes homered for the first time on this homestand and, maybe more importantly, made several plays with his legs on Saturday. He beat out a comebacker off Strasburg’s foot in the first and another infield hit in the fourth. He was also able to go first to third several times and slide without grabbing at his quad afterwards.
We’re Gonna Need More Baseballs
Lugo allowed two homers, and Sewald allowed one. That makes 16 home runs allowed in the Mets last five games. Remember when it was almost impossible to hit the ball out of Citi Field? Then again, if I were a Mets pitcher, I’d try to emphasize fly balls and take my chances.
The Mets try to salvage one game against the Nationals, then fly cross country to play the Dodgers.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports