September 21, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 138 Review: Heartbreaking Loss to Mets Likely Ends Season Hopes

WELL, THAT HAPPENED.

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” — Bart Giamatti, Green Fields of the Mind

I have seen many strange things in 27 years of watching baseball. I have never seen a game quite like this one.

As dusk settled in at Nationals Park, and the crowd streamed in, the Nationals staked themselves to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Nationals would add one in second and four in the sixth, to make it a 7-1 lead. The bullpen would surrender that lead in fantastical fashion in the seventh, walking six men, and giving up six runs. The Mets would go ahead in the 8th on a home run by pinch hitter Nieuwenhuis off closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Jordan Zimmermann gave up just three hits, including a home run, through 5.2IP. Though he was far from parsimonious with his pitches, Zimmmermann faced just three batters more than the minimum. The only run came on a sky-high home run to David Wright in the second, which landed just inside the foul pole down the left field line.

The Nationals’ staked their lead early, getting two runs on four singles in the first, and added another in the second on a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a single down the line.

Things fell apart in the sixth for the Mets, as Matt Harvey loaded the bases with no one out. Yunel Escobar lead off with a single, Clint Robinson walked, and Ian Desmond hit a tapper back to the mound that Harvey inexplicably threw to third. Everyone was safe. Wilson Ramos struck out looking, bringing Michael A. Taylor to the plate with one out.

What followed wasn’t anything anyone expected. He stroked it up the middle, where it somehow went right under Cespedes’ glove and all the way to the wall. Escobar scored, Robinson scored, and Desmond scored easily. Even Taylor came sprinting around third as Bob Henley waved him on with both hands. He came bounding in, and scored without a throw, to make it 7-1.

I’m just going to stop here for a moment to dwell on the fact that the Nationals lead this game at 7-1, and Fangraphs put their win percentage at about 98.5% at that point. Seven runs, to one run. Got that in your mind? Okay good.

Blake Treinen came on to start the seventh inning, in relief of Thornton, who got the last out of the sixth. David Wright lead things off with a single, and for a second, it looked like Treinen might survive it. He got Duda and d’Arnaud to fly out, and suddenly there were two outs. Everything went bananas from there.

Conforto walked. Flores singled, loading the bases. That was it for Blake Treinen. On comes Felipe Rivero to face pinch hitter Juan Uribe. Uribe battled an RBI walk, making it 7-2. Things only got worse from there. Granderson drew a walk, making it 7-3, ending Rivero’s night with two walks, both for runs. Matt Williams called for Drew Storen to close out the inning, and if you thought it was bad already, it was the Gas Can Boys out to throw fuel on the fire. Storen threw fifteen balls to five batters, giving up a double, and three walks, and the Nats were suddenly tied.

Neither Rivero nor Storen pitched well at all, but Matt Williams said that he and his staff had full confidence in the bullpen after the game: “We’re confident in [Storen], we’ll get him out there as quickly as possible.”

Asked about the difficulty of the game, Williams launched into a soliloquy:

“There’s times where things go well, and you understand that there are times on the other side of that coin, so what do you do? You pick yourself up by the bootstraps, and you go. You don’t have a choice at this point. In all of those guys lives, and in mine, there have been good times and bad times. Certainly learn from the bad, appreciate the good, take nothing for granted, and come with a fresh attitude tomorrow and go to work.”

Jacob deGrom vs. Stephen Strasburg at 7:05pm tomorrow could completely finish any sliver of hope left in Natstown.

HERO: Michael A. Taylor for his hustle.

GOAT: Drew Storen, Felipe Rivero and Blake Treinen for their dumpster fire effort in the seventh. Matt Williams for having Rendon bunt in the 9th.

NEXT UP: They play again tomorrow, but it probably doesn’t matter.

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.

Comments

  1. Hi Tom,
    Notwithstanding the misplayed single by Cespedes that took a bad hop OVER his glove, the 6 walk choke in the 7th, and the decision to bunt Rendon in the ninth, the thing that stood out most for me in this game was the lack of fan support. I was hoping to see three sell outs for this the biggest series of the season. BIG and LOUD Crowds, but instead only 31k yesterday (many of whom left early) and 27k quiet people tonight? What should have been a playoff like atmosphere looked sparse and lethargic on SNY tonight. The Nats average 33k a game, what gives? I thought Washington was a baseball town. Harper has a point.

    Heartbroken Nats fan in Queens, NY.

  2. Say what you will about Matt Williams’ managing (of which there is plenty to say), but you can’t fault him for bringing his 8th inning set up man in the 7th with the game situation on the line. It didn’t work out but it was the right call. Earlier in the year, I wonder if he would have stuck to the traditional script and not brought his 8th and 9th inning guys in in the 7th.

  3. Storen is a disaster. He’s going to blame the Papelbon trade for his deteriorating performance, but as he’s shown in year’s past he’s a head case who can’t handle the pressure – and this was before the Pap trade. Rizzo did Storen a favor in moving him out of the closer role, but as we now see he can’t even be the 8th inning set up man. HE NEEDS TO GO! He simply doesn’t have the mental toughness to be a MLB reliever.

    • Dave Nichols says:

      I don’t know that I agree with your opinion in general, but I do believe it’s time for Storen to move on. Nats brass have repeatedly removed him from the closer’s role, though that’s where he’s flourished, and his anger with the team has spilled over into his pitching. It’s time for a clean break for the sake of both parties.

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