Aug 30, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: After feasting on the hapless Marlins to begin this homestand, the Nationals hoped to continue the trend against a Mets club that has been decimated by injuries and trades. But the Nats forgot they had to face Dillon Gee, who for some reason has been as tough a foe as they’ve faced all season. Gee served up Wilson Ramos’ solo homer in the third but then dominated after that, inducing groundball out after groundball out. Jordan Zimmermann was just as good but made one mistake to Ike Davis that resulted in a two-run homer. The Mets added a big insurance run in the top of the eighth when Ryan Zimmerman made an ill-advised throw to first base, letting Daniel Murphy score all the way from second. That proved big when Steve Lombardozzi homered in the bottom of the inning, still leaving the Nationals down a run. They couldn’t push across the tying run in the eighth, then they couldn’t do it in the ninth against LaTroy Hawkins, suffering a tough loss. A potential bigger concern: Davey Johnson wasn’t in the dugout during the latter stages of the game; bench coach Randy Knorr took over at some point.
Hitting lowlight: It was kind of a last-ditch effort, but it was the only real chance the Nationals had to tie this game. With two outs in the eighth, Lombardozzi came off the bench to homer and cut the deficit to 3-2. Denard Span and Zimmerman then singled, knocking Gee out of the game and putting this one in the hands of Bryce Harper against left-hander Scott Rice. Harper took three straight balls, and with the red-hot Jayson Werth in the on-deck circle, you figured the kid would take the 3-0 pitch. He didn’t, instead fouling it off. Harper then grounded Rice’s 3-1 fastball to second base, where Murphy briefly booted the ball. Harper, though, wasn’t running hard down the line and so he had no chance to try to beat it out.
Pitching highlight: This was a perfect case study in pitching efficiency by Zimmermann, who (when he’s on) is as good at that as anybody in the game. The right-hander worked fast, threw strikes and got quick outs, everything a pitching coach could ever want from his starter. Zimmermann did make one mistake: a first-pitch changeup to Davis that wound up in the left-field bullpen. Otherwise, there was nothing to find fault with Zimmermann on this night. He completed seven innings on a scant 78 pitches, an astounding 61 of them strikes.
Key stat: Dillon Gee’s ERA in five starts against the Nationals this season is 2.16. Against everyone else, it’s 3.97.
Up next: The series continues Saturday night when rookie sensation Zack Wheeler gets the ball for the Mets against resurgent veteran Dan Haren of the Nats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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