September 18, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 101 Review: Nats lose 2-1 to Mets in 12 innings

WILMER FLORES HOMERS IN THE 12TH BEAT NATS

Wilmer Flores, who Thursday thought he’d been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, homered in the 12th inning off lefty reliever Felipe Rivero, sending the Washington Nationals to a bitter 2-1 defeat to the New York Mets, trimming the Nats lead in the N.L. East to two games.

Matt Harvey pitched 5 1/3 innings of perfect baseball on Friday night before a sellout crowd at Citi Field, as Gio Gonzalez struggled through 4 2/3. Harvey worked with a 1-0 lead from the fourth inning onward, working through the Nationals’ order with little difficulty.

Gonzalez struggled with his control tonight, walking four, but striking out six. Gonzalez pitched with runners aboard in the fourth and the fifth, loading the bases in the fourth before retiring the side, and giving up a single and a double in the fifth before being lifted for Tanner Roark with two outs in the fifth.

Roark pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief, getting the Nationals clear of the jam in fifth, and retiring the Mets in order in the sixth and seventh. His corner work was stellar on Friday night, and he struck out four batters out of seven.

The Nationals struggled mightily against Matt Harvey, with Harvey working 5 1/3 perfect innings before Jose Lobaton singled to right to break up the perfect game. Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth added two more hits in the sixth and seventh, but until the eighth, Matt Harvey was Superman.

Sadly for the Mets fans in attendance, Harvey was human in the eighth inning. With 100 pitches under his belt for the evening, Harvey hit pinch-hitter Clint Robinson with a 1-1 pitch in the dirt. Anthony Rendon singled up the middle to move pinch-runner Danny Espinosa to second base, bringing up Yunel Escobar. On a 98-mph fastball down the middle, Escobar drove the ball through the gap to score Espinosa and tie the game at one apiece. That would be all for Harvey, replaced by familiar reliever Tyler Clippard to face Jayson Werth.

In a simulated game at the end of the 2014 season, Tyler Clippard pitched to Jayson Werth on a wager. Werth ended up shelling out $100 when Clipp struck him out. It took 13 pitches tonight, but Clippard repeated his earlier performance. On a pitch on the lower left-hand corner, Werth left the bat on his shoulder, expecting to get the call for a walk. Instead, he owes Clippard another $100.

Aaron Barrett worked the eighth for the Nationals, giving up a single before retiring the side. The slider that Barrett was throwing was fearsome and fooled both Juan Uribe and Travis d’Arnaud for strikeouts.

Bryce Harper lead off the ninth against his former teammate with his 45-road-game on-base streak and 23-game on-base streak on the line, flew out to start the ninth inning. Clippard went on to walk Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to end his night after just the two outs. Jeurys Familia was successful at protecting the Mets’ tie, getting Michael A. Taylor to swing at a ball in the dirt, and then neutralized Jose Lobaton on a fly ball.

Barrett came back out to face the Mets in the ninth, and though he’s a high energy pitcher usually good only for one inning, he rocketed through the Mets order. Barrett retired Flores, Lagares and Campbell in order, getting two short pop-ups and a ground out to send the game into extra innings.

Familia pitched the tenth, and faced the minimum, getting three easy ground outs to retire the Nationals, and Felipe Rivero matched him in the bottom. Rivero worked through Kelly Johnson (flyout), Curtis Granderson (strikeout), and Ruben Tejada (soft grounder) and looked very impressive.

In the eleventh, the Mets turned to Hansel Robles for pitching duties. Jayson Werth grounded out, and then things turned ugly. On a pitch that was well out of the strikezone, home plate umpire Jerry Meals rung up Bryce Harper for the second out of the inning. Harper objected vehemently to the strike call, and said some uncharitable things. He was ejected. Keep in mind that, due to Tyler Moore pinch-hitting in the ninth, and Clint Robinson pinch-hitting in the eighth, the Nationals were entirely out of outfielders on the bench.

Jayson Werth moved over to right field, and Ryan Zimmerman ran out to left field. Dan Uggla slotted into Harper’s spot in the order, and took over at first base. This is not what you would call a defensive matchup in the Nationals’ favor. It didn’t factor into the eleventh inning, as Rivero retired the Mets in order.

Carlos Torres pitched the twelfth for the Mets, and retired the side on three strikeouts. At one point, final remaining position player Wilson Ramos warmed up and swung a bat in the on-deck circle, while pitchers Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimermann were both spotted stretching and preparing to pinch hit. They were not necessary in the twelfth. Or at all on Friday night.

Wilmer Flores lead off the bottom of the twelfth against Felipe Rivero and a fastball down broadway got driven into the Party Deck in left center, just 48 hours after he was in tears on the field over a potential trade. If anyone deserves a good day, it’s Flores, but it was tough to see the Nationals drop such a critical game.

For reasons not yet explained, Jonathan Papelbon, Matt Thornton, Drew Storen and Casey Janssen never entered the game, despite the high pressure situation and facing a divisional opponent only just a few games back. Lack of offense remains a frequent problem for the Nationals, and tonight’s onr-run effort was definitely indicative of a larger problem.

The Nationals’ lead in the NL East shrinks to two games.

HERO: Tanner Roark, for his relief work, and Yunel Escobar, for a clutch single in the eighth to tie the game when the Nationals needed it most.

GOAT: Bryce Harper, who argued yet another called third strike and found himself ejected, but this time when the club had no spare outfielder. Dumb move, Harper. Dumb move. Bad call, but dumb move.

NATS NOTES:

  • Mike Rizzo met with Drew Storen and his agent Brodie van Wagenen on Friday, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson
  • At 45 games, Harper’s on-base streak is second in franchise history, and the longest since the Nationals returned to Washington.

NEXT UP: Nationals vs Mets continues tomorrow night, Joe Ross (2-3, 3.03) vs Jacob deGrom (10-6, 2.05) at 7:10pm at Citi Field.

About Tom Bridge

Tom Bridge is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals. Tom has been in love with baseball since he was 10. He is a founding editor of We Love DC, where he covered the Nationals and Capitals as a credentialed writer for four seasons. He grew up as an Oakland Athletics fan in the Central Valley in California, where he learned to appreciate Bill King, Mark McGwire and even Tony LaRussa. By day, he is a partner at Technolutionary LLC, where he handles IT operations. He cannot abide the Cardinals. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomBridgeDSP.

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