The Nationals have been most resilient in this so far magical season, and Tuesday night’s 5-4, 10 inning victory over the New York Mets was a classic example of overcoming adversity.
Ryan Zimmerman raced home on a wild pitch by Pedro Beato to score the winning run in a game that featured a stellar starting performance by Ross Detwiler, Tyler Clippard‘s second straight blown save opportunity — courtesy of a pinch-hit go-ahead homer in the ninth for the Mets — a game-tying hit by Danny Espinosa in the bottom of the ninth after the Nats were down to their last strike, and another clutch hit from Bryce Harper in the 10th.
Ryan Mattheus (3-1) got the win by retiring the final batter in the to of the 10th, while Tim Byrdak (2-1) took the loss, surrendering two hits and two intentional walks in the bottom of the inning. The Mets lost their fifth straight game, while the Nats came home from a 2-2 road trip on a winning not and took advantage of a loss by Atlanta to extend their NL East leadt to 3 1-2 games.
Detwiler cruised along through seven innings, allowing five hits, striking out four and not walking a batter. Tyler Moore‘s fifth home run of the season, a line shot to right field with no one on in the fifth, staked the Nats to a 1-0 lead, and Steve Lombardozzi‘s RBI double in the eighth to score pinch-runner Mark DeRosa made it 2-0 for Clippard, and that’s where the fun began.
The Nats’ closer continued the trend he started just before the All-Star break, allowing Josh Thole and David Wright, the first two batters in the ninth, to reach on singles. He struck out Scott Hairston and got ahead of pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin 2-1 before Valdespin lofted a high fly ball over the right field scoreboard that caromed off a fan’s hand before bouncing off the top of the wall and back onto the field. The umpiring crew reviewed the video and ruled it a homer, putting the Mets ahead 3-2.
Michael Morse started the Nats’ rally in the bottom of the ninth with a one-out single, and Ian Desmond, who sat out the previous three games to rest the oblique injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game, pinch ran. The move paid off when Adam LaRoche singled to right and the speedy Desmond took third. But after Tyler Moore struck out on three straight breaking balls, Espinosa was left to face Mets fill-in closer Bobby Parnell from the left side of the plate, where he came into the game hitting .212.
Parnell fed him a steady diet of curveballs, and and after Espinosa fell behind 2-1 and fouled off a pitch, Parnell tried to fool him with the fastball, but Espinosa was waiting for it and lined a single through the middle, scoring Desmond and sending the game into extra innings.
Reliever Michael Gonzalez promptly yielded a single to Daniel Murphy, and pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis sacrificed him to second. After Reuben Tejada struck out, Josh Thole tied the game by doubling against the Nats’ “no doubles” defense, shooting a 3-2 pitch toward the left-field gap while Lombardozzi was hugging the line.
Nats Manager Davey Johnson went for broke in the bottom of the inning, sending Johnathan Solano to pinch hit for the struggling Jesus Flores against the left-hander Byrdak (2-1), and the backup catcher came through with a single to left. Lombardozzi sacrificed him to second before Harper launched a line drive to deep right. Solano scored the tying run easily, but Harper did not stop at second, heading for third and drawing a throw that almost skipped by Wright into the Mets dugout. Byrdak then intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond, who stayed in the game after his pinch-running appearance, to load the bases for La Roche, who hit into a force to put Harper out at home.
Beato came on to face Tyler Moore with two outs, and after getting ahead 2-0, threw a curveball in the dirt that Thole barely blocked. But his next pitch was even wider and got by the catcher, allowing Zimmerman to score easily.
Champ of the Game: Espinosa gets the nod for his clutch, two-out, two-strike hit to keep the game alive in the ninth. His sophomore slump seems over since the start of July. In that span he has raised his average from .225 to .240 and has gone 5-for-8 in his last two games.
Chump of the Game: Clippard. He’s not pitched well in two save situations dating to before the All-Star break. Drew Storen‘s status as the closer when he returns from his injury was once in question, but if Clippard doesn’t start pitching well in the ninth inning of close games, Storen could have his old job back in short order.
Unsung Hero: Detwiler. He got 11 days off between starts thanks to the All-Star break, and he looked rested and ready to roll with one of his longest and most effective outings of the season.