Game 53: Nationals 7, Mets 6 (12 innings)


In a game that had more twists and plot turns than an afternoon soap opera, Bryce Harper delivered his first walk-off hit with a line drive, opposite field single on an 0-2 count with the bases loaded and two out in the 12th inning as the Washington Nationals defeated the New York Mets, 7-6.

Harper’s game-winner marked the third time the Nationals came from a run behind late in the game. In the 8th, Ian Desmond delivered a clutch 2-out singe to score Ryan Zimmerman to tie the game, 4-4.

Two innings later, the Mets made several fielding miscues, the most egregious when rookie shortstop Jordany Valdespin booted Desmond’s likely game-ending double play ball. Instead of a save for New York’s hard-throwing closer Bobby Parnell, Zimmerman scored from third to tie the game for a second time. The Nats later loaded the bases, but Parnell rebounded by striking out Washington’s Rick Ankiel with the bases loaded and two outs. Parnell fell behind Ankiel, 3 and 0, but battled back to fan the Washington outfielder on a 100 m.p.h. fastball.

After Scott Hairston gave the Mets a 6-5 lead in the top of the 12th with a home run off of Ross Detwiler, the Nats won the game in the 12th against another Mets’ rookie, pitcher Elvin Ramirez. Nationals’ fans may remember Ramirez as the club’s Rule 5 draft pick in 2010, who succumbed to a shoulder injury and missed the entire season. Washington returned the hard-throwing right-hander to the Mets in 2011.

The Nationals solved Ramirez in his second inning of work after he fanned Harper, Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche in the 11th. Michael Morse, who earned his first hit of the 2012 season earlier in the game, began the Nationals comeback with a double off of the scoreboard in right centerfield. With New York third baseman David Wright playing in to guard against a bunt, Desmond smacked a hard grounder past him for a game-tying two-bagger.

Ramirez then did an excellent Henry Rodriguez imitation, throwing a wild pitch to move Desmond to third, intentionally walking Jesus Flores and then walking Detwiler (the Nationals’ pitcher and Ramirez both hit for themselves in the 12th because each team had already emptied its bullpens) despite his attempts to bunt two pitches well out of the strike zone.

Ramirez found the strike zone again, though, and nearly escaped. LaRoche grounded to Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis, who threw home to retire Desmond, the inning’s second out. Harper quickly fell behind 0-2 before driving the next pitch to left.

The liner dropped a split second before left fielder Vinny Rottino arrived. Rottino dove and tried to convince the umpires he had caught the ball, but it had short-hopped into his glove. As Rottino winced in frustration, Flores scored the winning run and Harper and his elated teammates rejoiced.

Champs of the Game: Harper, 2-7, with 2 RBI and the first game-winning hit of his major league career and Desmond, who went 2-6, with 3 RBI, including game-tying hits in the 8th, 10th, and 12th innings. Despite his impatience and the plate and occasional fielding miscues, Desmond is cool in the clutch.

For the Mets, Hairston 8th home run of the season (in 99 at-bats) appeared to give them a big road victory until Washington answered yet again. Hairston also scored the go-ahead run for the Mets in the 10th, when he singled against Henry Rodriguez, stole second, moved to third on Andres Torres’ grounder, and scored on Rodriguez’s 9th wild pitch of the season.

Chumps of the Game: Rodriguez struggled again, nearly costing the Nats another game with an ill-timed wild pitch. Dishonorable mention goes to Craig Stammen, who failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the 8th, allowing a 2-run triple to Torres that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead.

For New York, Valdespin committed two crucial errors in the 10th, as the Nationals scored the tying run without hitting a ball out of the infield.

Unsung hero: Zimmerman reached based in the 8th and 10th to put the Nationals in position to tie the game. Honorable mention goes to Nationals’ broadcaster Dave Jaegler. With his partner Charlie Slowes taking the night off to attend his son’s graduation ceremony, Jaegler called this 4 hour, 15 minute marathon solo. On Harper’s game ending at-bat, his fading voice went from dejection when it looked as if Rottino would extend the game with a diving catch, to jubilation when the ball finally fell in, meaning his long night was finally  over.

Next Game: Tonight, June 6, 7:05 p.m. at Nationals Park. Edwin Jackson (1-3, 3.17) faces Jeremy Hefner (1-2, 5.60). With exhausted bullpens and interleague play looming, both men will need to pitch deep into the game.