Game 96: Nationals 5, Mets 2


Relying on strong starting pitching from now 13-game winner Gio Gonzalez and a timely four run rally against New York’s ace R.A. Dickey, the Washington Nationals defeated the Mets, 5-2. The Nats’ win over Dickey marked his first loss since April 18th.

Adam LaRoche keyed the sixth inning rally with a two-run homer against Dickey to give the Nats a 3-1 lead. Catcher Jesus Flores, back in action after missing two games with a sore back, added to the lead with an RBI single, scoring Danny Espinosa. Roger Bernadina also scored on Flores’ hit, thanks to a throwing error by Mets’ left fielder Jason Bay.

Gonzalez starred for Washington. He rebounded from one of his worst starts as a National five days ago with one of his best. The left-hander won his 13th game, against 5 losses, with seven innings of two-hit baseball.

Normally a strike out pitcher, Gonzalez mixed his pitches to induce 12 groundball outs. He walked two and struck out four in 87 pitches. He didn’t get to pitch deeper into the game, though. With two runners on base against the Mets’ suspect bullpen, Davey Johnson elected to remove Gonzalez for pinch-hitter Tyler Moore, who struck out.

The move looked questionable when Ryan Mattheus allowed a solo homer to Jordany Valdespin leading off the home eighth. But Sean Burnett and closer Tyler Clippard combined to get six consecutive outs to end the game. Clippard was especially dominant, overcoming his previous struggles against the Mets, with two strikeouts and a weak grounder to earn his 17th save.

The victory moves the Nationals to 18 games over .500 for the first time this season and maintains their 4.5 game lead over the Braves, who defeated the Marlins tonight, 4-3.

Champ of the Game: Gonzalez, who pitched brilliantly. Honorable mentions go to LaRoche (2-3, 2 RBI) for his key home run, Espinosa and Bernadina, both 2-4 and still red-hot Ryan Zimmerman, who went 3-5 to raise his average to .277.

For the Mets, their maligned bullpen combined for 3 shut out innings from Manny Acosta, Josh Edgin, and Ramon Rodriguez.

Chump of the Game: If someone must be named for the Nationals, Mattheus could be tagged for allowing the home run and giving New York a brief ray of hope for a comeback.

For the Mets, their hitters reached base only six times.

Unsung Hero: Harper, who threw out Ronny Cedeno on an RBI single in the second inning to end the inning, holding the Mets to a single run and saving pitches for Gonzalez.

Next Game: Tomorrow, July 25, 12:10 p.m. The Nationals go for a series sweep and their fifth consecutive victory as Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 2.85 ERA) faces Jeremy Hefner (1-3, 5.85 ERA).