They just won’t go away. That looks to be the theme of the year for these pesky New York Mets (46-45) and first-place Washington Nationals (53-36). After late-inning commotion took over Nationals Park for a second straight night, the Nats would again squeak by and win another nail biter on a cooler, 80 degree Wednesday in the nation’s capital, 4-3. Both starters played extremely well, but slip-ups by both bullpens would keep this game close until the final out. Nevertheless, Jordan Zimmermann (7-6) picks up his 7th win of the season and sits with a record over .500 for the first time since May 2009, when he was just 2-1. Oh yeah, he is now also 5th in the major leagues in ERA with a stellar 2.35 mark.
Despite a great outing, Mets starter Chris Young would pick up the loss in this one. It would take six innings until a run was scored for either team, and unfortunately for Young, it was Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche who would jack an opposite-field shot and number 16 of the year to put the home team up 2-0 in the 6th. Some guy named Bryce Harper earned the other run after picking up a single before LaRoche got to the plate. Young finished off the inning but would be pulled after giving up only those two runs on six hits, one walk, while striking out two in the contest.
As aforementioned, Zimmermann was nearly perfect in this one but was taken out after six innings due to a high pitch count of 95. Even more impressive than his ERA is the fact Zimmermann has pitched at least six full innings in all 19 of his starts this season. He took a seat in the dugout after surrendering only four hits and zero walks while K-ing four in the process. Tom Gorzelanny would come in to pitch the 7th, but would give up a double and eventual run to Lucas Duda to bring the score back to a close 2-1 at stretch time.
After Young was pulled, bullpen woes for the Mets continued as former National Miguel Batista would be put in to face the tail end of the Nats’ order in the bottom of the 7th. To start the half-inning, catcher Jesus Flores would knock a quick single and pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina followed with a sharp single of his own that hit Batista’s shin, putting runners on first and second for newly-promoted 2nd baseman, Steve Lombardozzi (only due to the absence of regular shortstop, Ian Desmond, who continues to face an oblique injury). Lombo would then surprise the crowd with a double off the right field wall to score both runners, putting the score at a comfortable 4-1 as the Mets would gear up for the 8th.
Solid relief appearances by Sean Burnett and Jon Rauch for the Nats and Mets, respectively, would keep the score at 4-1 for Tyler Clippard to end the game for the home team in the 9th. Much to the 30,000+ fans’ dismay, outs wouldn’t come easy as Clippard gave up a home run to David Wright on his first pitch, and then another homer to Jason Bay later in the inning to bring the score to 4-3. That left pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin—yes, the guy who hit a three-run homer off Clippard only a night ago—to face his nemesis one again. Anxiety quickly built throughout Nationals Park, but luckily the game would end as Clippard capped off the night with a K to Valdespin. The Nats earn another series win in this thrilling 2012 season.
Champ of the Game: Clearly Jordan Zimmermann for the Nats, who surely won’t receive enough credit postgame after all the action came following his departure in the 6th. Still, this man might just end up being the best starter for our DC club the rest of the way.
For the Mets, you got to hand it to David Wright. 3-4 tonight with the homer in the 9th, and I’m sure he’ll continue to be the thorn in the side of the Nationals for the next few months as the playoff race heats up.
Chump of the Game: After blowing the save and giving up a homer last night to Valdespin, Clippard picked up right where he left off and gave up two more SHOTS tonight that put worry into all Nationals fans. Looks like manager Davey Johnson’s decision regarding the healing closer and former All Star Drew Storen might become a little easier.
Lots of 0-fers for the Mets, but Miguel Batista had an absolutely terrible outing in the 7th that allowed the Nats to buy some insurance and hold on in this one.