The Nationals beat the Mets in a thirteen inning game Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park. The Nats finally had some luck in winning an extra inning game, with Craig Stammen providing three scoreless innings of relief pitching and Bryce Harper providing the winning runs in the bottom of the thirteenth inning.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the decision, although both pitched well. Jordan Zimmermann pitched 6 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs. Mets starter Jacob Degrom pitched six innings and gave up three runs. After the seventh inning, it was the battle of the bullpens and both held the other team scoreless for almost another full game.
The Nationals took an early lead. In the bottom of the second Adam LaRoche started the inning with a double. Ian Desmond followed with a two run shot into the visitors bullpen, putting the Nats up 2-0.
The Mets got one of those runs back in the top of the third inning. Degrom, who hits eighth when he is pitching, singled to start off the inning. Eric Young, Jr. then sacrificed Degrom to second. After Curtis Granderson ground out, Nat killer Daniel Murphy smacked an RBI double to score Degrom.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Nationals tacked on another run. LaRoche hit a ground rule double and Desmond doubled right behind LaRoche to score another run. Desmond was responsible for driving in all of the Nats’ first three runs.
The Nats held their lead until the top of the seventh inning, when the Mets tied the game. Wilmer Flores singled to lead off the inning. Zimmermann induced a flyout from Andrew Recker, but then Kurt Nieuwenhuis, pinch hitting for Degrom, got a seeing eye single. With two on and one out, Matt Williams took the ball from Jordan and called in Drew Storen to finish the inning.
Williams’ move was probably a mistake. Zimmermann had only thrown 91 pitches and was about to face two light hitting Mets. Drew Storen pitches better when he starts an inning and has been allowing inherited runners to score this year.
While pitching to Young, Storen threw a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third, which meant the double play was no longer available and a run could score on a sacrifice fly. Young then hit that sacrifice fly to score a run. Granderson then singled to score Nieuwenhuis and the game was tied.
Williams brought in Jerry Blevins to face Murphy for the left on left matchup. Blevins won that battle, getting Murphy to ground out to end the inning. But the damage was done. The game was tied 3-3 and Zimmermann would not get the win.
The Nationals then put runners on in the bottom of both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not get a runner over the plate. Denard Span (who was 4 for 6 on the day) and Jayson Werth got on with one out in the eighth. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Lobaton both got on with one out in the bottom of the ninth. All of them were stranded and the game went into extra innings.
The Nationals bullpen was working it the rest of the way. Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth, Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth, and Matt Thornton, the newest member of the bullpen, threw in the tenth. None of them allowed a hit.
Craig Stammen came out to pitch the eleventh inning and pitched the rest of the way. He threw three innings of scoreless relief. He only allowed one hit and walked two during his outing over those three innings. His performance was essential and saved the game for the Nats, because by the time Stammen came into the game the only member of the bullpen who had not been used was Ross Detwiler and he had pitched the day before.
The Nationals bullpen and Stammen outlasted the Mets bullpen. By the bottom of the thirteenth the Mets had run through their bullpen and had to go to the last guy they had left, Jenrry Mejia.
He walked Desmond, the first batter he faced. Harper was up next. You have to be living on Mars not to know about Harper’s recent struggles at the plate and his frustration at not contributing the way he knows he can.
Harper hit a home run over the left field wall for the game winning shot. The fans were delirious, the players were ecstatic and Harper got a Gatorade dousing courtesy Desmond.
The win was important for a number of reasons. It gave the Nats the series win over the Mets and pushed their lead over the Atlanta Braves to four and a half games. Since the Nats are now on their way to Atlanta to play the Braves for a three game series, that lead needed to be as large as the Nats could make it.
Next Game: As mentioned, the Nationals and Braves tangle for three games this weekend at Turner Field. Game start time is 7:05 p.m. EST for Friday’s game. Stephen Strasburg (8-9, 3.39 ERA) pitches for the Nationals. Ervin Santana (10-6, 3.59 ERA) pitches for the Braves.