Amidst an array of roster moves, the Washington Nationals (29-29) out-pitched the New York Mets (22-33) in their return to Nationals Park Tuesday night to record a much-needed 3-2 win.
It was anything but a quiet day for the Nats, who welcomed back Jayson Werth for his first game since May 2. Washington recalled – but sat – Anthony Rendon and also brought up left-handed pitcher Ian Krol.
With few signs of Zach Duke, Danny Espinosa or Henry Rodriguez lingering in the Nats’ clubhouse, Jordan Zimmermann (ND, 8-3) powered on for eight innings of top-notch baseball, providing the revised lineup with a shot at coming back in the later innings – something they haven’t done much of all season.
Considering some of the rocky outings Jeremy Hefner (ND, 1-5) has had thus far, the Mets’ fandom could applaud his effort as well. The 27-year-old right-hander held the struggling Nationals to just one run over four hits and one walk in seven innings.
As such, once more, a Nationals pitcher tossed a gem only to get cheated out of a win – but, at the very least, this battle was not one to be lost for all. It was almost as though a sense of urgency swept over the Nats – even if it has yet to take hold in the form of bat power.
After going down 1-2-3 in the first, the Nationals notched a run on the board in the second via an Ian Desmond solo shot to left. The homer represented Washington’s only hit until the bottom of the fifth, but Zimmermann did his part, holding the Mets scoreless until the top half of the same inning.
After Jordany Valdespin singled and former Nat Rick Ankiel reached on a throwing error by Adam LaRoche, Hefner advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt. And, once more, errors proved costly to the Nats as the Mets’ most recent call-up, Omar Quintanilla, tripled in two unearned runs to put New York up 2-1.
From there, the Nats’ bats gave Zimmermann nothing to work with, yet, he kept Washington within one run of tying until Tyler Clippard (W, 4-1) took the mound. By the time Zimmermann’s day was done, he had allowed just two unearned runs, four hits and one walk in an inning shy of a complete game. Clippard, in return, retired the side in the ninth, which included a strikeout to Ike Davis.
Clippard’s 16 total pitches thrown, however, were enough to come home with a win to open the stretch, all thanks to the middle of the Nationals’ order.
Ryan Zimmerman doubled and LaRoche singled him in to tie the game, 2-2. Afterwards, Desmond doubled and right-hander Bobby Parnell, oddly enough, intentionally walked Roger Bernadina – who is hitting well below .200 – to get to Steve Lombardozzi.
Lombardozzi worked Parnell for nine pitches before batting in the game-winner with a sacrifice fly to left. The win marked the first time the Nationals worked an opposing team for a blown save this season.
THE GOOD: “Don’t call it a comeback…” but, at least the Nats ended their first game home on a good note – something they needed to do to send a signal that the team will not sit idly by or settle for falling back to below .500. While his win/loss tally does him no justice, Jordan Zimmermann was stellar – something the Nationals have depended upon almost too much as the team collectively struggles to break out of their slump.
Jayson Werth went just 1-for-4 in his return to the lineup, but he made good contact on Hefner’s pitches, including a screeching fly ball for an out.
THE BAD: The Nationals may have “out-hit” the New York Mets, but they still tallied just seven hits against a pitcher enduring a sub-par season thus far.
THE UGLY: Two more errors – Adam LaRoche (4, throwing) and Jordan Zimmermann (2, fielding). LaRoche’s cost Zimmermann a shutout opportunity and nearly handed the Mets the win.
NEXT GAME: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Nationals Park: RHP Dillon Gee (3-6, 5,68) vs. RHP Dan Haren (4-6, 5.09)