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Nats finally get to Matt Harvey

Jul 21, 2015, 12:44 AM EDT

USA Today

Matt Harvey has dominated his fair share of lineups throughout his brief MLB career and the Nationals are no stranger to what he’s capable of. Entering Monday night Harvey had a 0.68 ERA in six starts against Washington with three earned runs allowed and 47 strikeouts across 40 innings.

Harvey had already seen the Nats twice this season and threw 13 scoreless innings combined in those outings. Many have had trouble with the Dark Knight of Gotham, but for the Nats it had been a quixotic effort.

That history would have no bearing in Monday’s 7-2 win over the New York Mets, however, as the Nats struck early against Harvey to notch five runs (four earned) on the right-hander through the first three innings. Harvey would go on to pitch seven innings, but enough damage was done to set the stage for the Nats’ 50th win of the 2015 season.

The Nats scored two runs in the first inning, one on a single and one on a fielder’s choice. Danny Espinosa got it started with a one-out bunt single. Bryce Harper then walked on four pitches and Yunel Escobar followed with an RBI single to left field.

The second run came when Harper and Escobar took off on a pitch in the dirt from Harvey. They ran from first and second and Escobar hesitated before reaching second base to bait the Mets into a rundown. The ploy worked and it allowed Harper to score easily from third and put the Nationals up 2-0.

“Yuni staying in the rundown, that’s not something that everyone would do normally,” Ian Desmond said. “The majority of guys would just stop and let the guy tag him. He worked it and gave Harper enough time to score. Then we just worked Harvey’s pitch count and kept on grinding on him.”

“Yuni got in the rundown. He would’ve been out if he kept going,” Matt Williams said. “But, heads up play from [Bob Henley] and from Harp over there at third base to recognize that once the ball was returned to the first baseman then he’s got opportunity to score.”

The three runs in the third inning came thanks to a Clint Robinson double and an error by Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy. That rally began with another Espinosa single and Harper walk. Robinson then roped a double to center field one out later to score both runners.

The error came on a soft grounder by Desmond, one that forced Murphy to make a tough throw to first. The ball sailed past Mets first baseman Eric Campbell and up the right field line after it caromed off the wall. Robinson was then waved home by the umpires to make it 5-0.

Murphy made two errors on the night and Robinson pointed to those mistakes as a big reason why the Nats were able to finally crack Harvey.

“I think the defensive miscues probably hurt him a little bit because he felt like ‘I gotta make a perfect pitch now because my defense is not really helping me out.’ It looked like he was trying to do a little too much with some of his pitches,” Robinson said.

Robinson also believes the Nationals were well-prepared to face Harvey after seeing former Cy Young-winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in their previous two games.

“The past couple of days with Greinke and Kershaw, I think that helped us out a little bit with Harvey. It kind of gave us a preview of what to expect from a stuff standpoint. We just went out there and executed our gameplan and you saw the results,” he said.

Williams thinks the Nats benefitted from being more selective.

“I think we laid off the high fastball a little bit better. We understand that’s part of his repertoire and when he gets two strikes, he like to elevate that fastball. Harp laid off a couple. We got a couple of walks early which allowed us to get more base runners,” he said.

The Nationals continue their run through some of the best pitchers in baseball with Jacob deGrom on Tuesday night. They couldn’t hit Kershaw or Greinke, but they got to Harvey. Now they’ll take their chances against the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.

  1. laddieblahblah - Jul 21, 2015 at 3:03 AM

    Brilliantly played by the Nats, doing it with both power and by successfully playing small ball when appropriate. Terrific D really helped Gio, too. Smart base running by Bryce, making the Mets pay for walking him on base, and by Escobar, as well. Except for Gio’s one really bad inning, the Nats dominated throughout.

    A key to the Nats success may have been Espinosa’s ability to force Harvey to work from the stretch. Desmond’s HR also came after CRob punched a leadoff single to CF. But as long as he could work from his full windup, Harvey was as effective as ever. Matt also noted that the Nats were looking for Harvey’s high FB and refused to swing, helping to put them in hitter’s counts more often.

    Good to finally beat him. Wouldn’t mind if they did the same thing to the Mets tomorrow. Kick ’em while they’re down. I love when that happens!

    • virginiascopist - Jul 21, 2015 at 5:06 AM

      Totally agree with regards to Espinosa getting on base in the 1st and 3rd innings to put the pressure on Harvey. Minor correction: CRob’s single and Desmond’s HR were off of Mets reliever Alex Torres.

      • laddieblahblah - Jul 21, 2015 at 7:47 AM

        Right you are. Still a good AB by Desmond there.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2015 at 7:41 AM

      Exceptional defense. After the Taylor K to start the game, the strike zone was balanced. Bryce actually got away with one that was a strike called a ball.

      I was not impressed by Gio except his 6th inning but that’s how baseball is that you get rewarded when you didn’t have your best and 2 earned over 6 innings is a good night. He was at a combo of 9 hits/walks thru 5, but was saved 2 XBH by Esco and MAT in situations where there were 2 on base and the defense saved him with Web Gems. The walk of Campbell (.160 batter) with 2 outs was the root of most of Gio’s problems as he righted his pitch count in the 4th and that’s what Gio has to learn from as he had a 5 run lead there.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:20 AM

        One key to me was that Esco is finally playing back where the 3B should. He’s been playing up where RZ played his last games because of his throwing arm issues. But, Esco doesn’t have those. Those two great catches would have been by him over the weekend. I haven’t seen anything about why he did move, but I’m glad. Hope he stays there.

        You could make the argument that a lot of the difference in this game was the play at 3B. Murphy was brutal. Esco was exceptional.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:24 AM

        As Doc would say CORRECTOMUNDO Raymeister!

        Frustrating, for sure. It’s like the risk of any infielder playing up for a play at the plate as your range is diminished.

        Finally and at a huge cost this season as he’s cost the Nats multiple hits by playing up and then he reverted back as you saw it again on the Lagares single as Esco was up.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:33 AM

        I’d love to get some explanation on that. Maybe Mark will ask MW. I can’t imagine the coaching staff wants him up there on the edge of the grass all the time.

      • nats128 - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:51 AM

        rayvil01,

        +1 I want to know. It was like a revelation last night. You play at normal depth and you get baseballs that you had no shot at before. Theres a reason they call it the hot corner and thats on balls that still get by you when you are playing behind the bag!

      • jhewitt11 - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        I read somewhere that Escobar doesn’t like fielding off the dirt and likes the bounce off the grass. Doesn’t quite make sense given his history at short.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2015 at 3:28 PM

        I read that here and makes no sense to me. Something lost in translation.

    • hokiepokster92 - Jul 21, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      It can’t be understated. Espi’s skill at pulling off the drag bunt again last night jump started a rally against Harvey. Espi may lack the ability to pull off the sacrifice bunt but he’s got the drag bunt down to a science. He nearly pulled it off against Greinke but Greinke made a defensive play only a handful of pitchers could execute by beating Espi to the bag and recording the out.

  2. laddieblahblah - Jul 21, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    “The walk of Campbell (.160 batter) with 2 outs was the root of most of Gio’s problems as he righted his pitch count in the 4th and that’s what Gio has to learn from as he had a 5 run lead there.”

    That is the real head-scratcher. Just challenge him with a FB over the plate with a 5-run lead and 2 outs. Probably would have ended the inning right there with a FB high in the zone. Can’t figure what Loby and Gio were thinking there.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:32 AM

      YEP! If he gets Campbell there his pitch count stays near 70 with a shutout and goes 7 innings.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    “From Mark: There you go. Broke BEFORE contact. 98 percent route efficiency. Wow. https://t.co/mkha4603Z3

    So MAT moved towards the gap as the swing started and BEFORE actual contact by a split second. That’s instincts.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      Very cool!

      Can anyone clue me in to how the release of statcast info works?

      Unless I’m missing something, it seems that they release only a little info about a few plays of their choosing, via twitter and mlb.com.

      I don’t understand why they’re spoonfeeding it to us. Is it a marketing strategy to tease fans’ interest in statcast as a novelty? Or do they not trust it enough yet, or have the bandwidth, to make everything generally available and in close to real time?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:16 AM

        Only on top plays and HRs it seems. I expect this eventually as an enhancement you pay for with the At-Bat app.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:43 AM

        Thanks – that makes sense.

        I think they make some of the raw data available in spreadsheet form, but not in a way that is easily accessible or comprehensible to the average user.

    • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:39 AM

      On the postgame TV interview, Michael A did say he was breaking based on pitch location, as well as scouting. So, better than instincts — that’s smart baseball at a higher level.

  4. Hiram Hover - Jul 21, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    1. Great defense! (Looking at you MAT! and you Bryce! and you Jose! and….)

    2. Great offense! (Here’s hoping Desi’s journey back began last night….)

    3. Good enough pitching, considering 1 & 2.

  5. rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:26 AM

    Esco would have had the hard grounder hit by Lagares but he was up again.Maybe he plays up sometimes thinking bunt.I agreed when he plays back he is a much better fielder.

  6. veejh - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    Giiiiooooo’s better!

  7. rayvil01 - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:31 AM

    New York media is not shy about bringing out the hammer. This is John Harper in the DAILY NEWS this morning:
    “A tired team, an over-rested pitcher; on the big stage you have to raise your game if you want to be taken seriously as a contender. Instead the Mets shrunk from the moment while the Nationals showed off the depth and defensive athleticism that make them the better team.”

    He goes on to say DeGrom is truly the ace of the staff now. Big game tonight

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/harper-mets-harvey-doesn-bring-ace-game-nats-article-1.2298544

  8. Joe Seamhead - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:50 AM

    I mentioned this play last night when all of the well deserved compliments about the Web Gems were going around, but I still think it was a defining moment in the game: In the first inning with one out Gio walked Tejada, then gave up a double to Rf to Murphy, giving the Mets men on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Flores then bunted towards the mound and Gio cleanly fielded the ball and looked Tejada back to 3rd before firing the ball to first for the 2nd out. Gio then induced a ground ball to third end the threat. I think after the bad run the Mets had been on with RISP that play totally deflated them. They were so psyched up for this series and to get shut down in the first like that was demoralizing for them.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:06 AM

      Gio has been known to mess that play up if you think back to the playoffs. Agreed. It was a big play.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:17 AM

      +1.

      I confess to feeling a bit of dread as that play developed. Happy that Gio proved me wrong.

    • ArVAFan - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      Yep: I asked my friend who keeps score if she had a special symbol for “Gio fields his position”, and she said she didn’t, but she should.

    • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      That’s small ball for you. Got small margins for execution.

  9. ArVAFan - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    Completely off topic, but how about “The Federal Reserves” for a nickname for the bench? (Thinking back to 2008 when the Fed was about the only financial institution working, coming in to save the day).

    • adcwonk - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:11 AM

      I think that’s great !

  10. jd - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    Gio was definitely not sharp yesterday and I think that’s a product of a too long layoff. On the other hand Gio is a battler and always has been. He makes you want to wring his neck sometimes but then you look at his line and realize that he hung in there long enough to let his team win.

    I may be in the minority here but I am a big Gio fan.

    • adcwonk - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:14 AM

      Even better: that he can go 6 IP with 2 runs on a night when he clearly wasn’t his best.

      I think Gio had a roughy spring, but he’s back on track. And when he’s on track, he’s pretty darn good.

  11. jd - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    I feel so much better about things this morning. I saw the pitching matchups after the all star break and I was dreading a Mets sweep followed by a tough series on the road in Pittsburgh with a still crippled lineup. We are not out of the woods yet but I know 2 things for sure:

    1) We will still be on top after the Mets series.
    2) We are 1 day closer to having our regulars back.

  12. jd - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    One last thought. We have gotten more out of our bench players than we had a right to expect. DenDecker looks over matched most of the time but he has gotten a couple of key home runs including one game winner, Moore looks over matched against good pitching but gives you a key hit now and then including a few long balls, Uggla looks done most of the time but still gives you professional at bats off the bench. Robinson has totally held his own offensively, no one will ever mistake him for Mike Trout and his defense is, let’s say. offensive but I am completely impressed with his approach at the plate.

  13. ehay2k - Jul 21, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    The other nuanced in a big play in the game, was how Escobar handled the rundown. Not only did he stop early and force the action, when he was about to get tagged by the 1B (sorry, I have no idea who was playing for 1B for the Mutts) he moved towards the outfield, which took the 1B’s eyes off the play at home, and also made for a much tougher throw home as the 1B was moving away from home plate. Had Esco moved in, Bryce may have been out.

    Such a small nuance, such a big potential impact. Funny that Esco does those game-within-a-game things well (Livo-esque, one might say), but then plays so close in at 3B.

    I’ll take the tradeoff though!

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:17 AM

      Escobar plays where he’s told to play by the coaching staff. He’s not just deciding on his own to “play close.” You really think the Nats employ both an infield coach and a defensive positioning coach, and then they’re saying “Okay, Escobar, just play wherever you feel like playing”? Get your head out of the TV and go to a game sometime. Watch what the infielders do from batter to batter and pitch to pitch. They’re not just picking a spot where they’re going to play and standing there waiting for something to happen. They’re moving around constantly, including moving on the pitch in anticipation of the play. If the pitcher hits his spots, they’ll be making plays that look like they were positioned perfectly before the play. If the pitcher misses his spot, they can end up looking like they were positioned wrong. Infield play is a much bigger picture than you guys are seeing.

      • rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:28 AM

        FP said that Escobar likes to play up near the grass.I am sure Esco has something to do with where he likes to play.Also I believe he is reluctant now to move to 2nd.MW said recently Rendon was working out at 3rd as it was easier on his body to play 3rd.That was obvious after his 1st injury but he went back to play 2nd where injuries are more likely to happen.I am sure Esco had a lot to say about that and where he LIKES to play at 3rd.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        He may or may not be “reluctant” to move to second mid-season, I haven’t heard anybody who would know say anything about that. Personally, I doubt it; he was happy enough to do it in Feb. and March. It’s more likely that they don’t want to make him learn it in the last half of a pennant race, when he’s playing a perfectly good third base, and they already have at least two guys who play it better.

      • rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:48 AM

        The answer than is have Rendon get hit every time he makes a DP.If Desi is going to the bench as many say here someone has to move to play SS.Funny how we can move Danny all over the place midseason but not Esco.Seems to me it is more about Esco.

      • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM

        What it’s about is that Espinosa is a much much better defensive player than Escobar. He’s the utility guy who can make position changes on the fly and do it seamlessly. Escobar is not that guy, which is why you don’t make him learn a completely new position in the middle of a pennant race. So yes, it is all about Escobar.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 12:15 PM

        Thank you.

      • rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 12:55 PM

        We treated Clip for a guy that might not be able to play second base.Give me a break.The Cubs on the fly threw in Russell to play 2nd a SS in the minors at 22 years old and Esco who was traded for can not play 2nd on the fly.Give me a break.Not to mention Rendon is twice the 3rd baseman Esco is and Rendon is only average at 2nd and Esco would be his equal there.

      • rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        typo traded

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        Danny’s played second before; he may be the best second baseman they have now, tho Rendon will probably outhit him by 50+ points. The first base and left field experiments were born of necessity, because Danny isn’t a starter, he’s a bench guy with a great arm and good hands, so they can risk screwing around with him. Escobar is just more valuable. So’s Rendon, but as was noted earlier, he’s a good second baseman, whereas Escobar has never played second, AFAIK. Yeah, he’s a good enough shortstop you could probably stick him there cold and he’d figure it out, but why mess with it? Rendon hurt his knee playing third, and has suffered two other injuries since then, none of them playing second base. Yes, there’s some risk, but it’s way over-rated in this case, IMO.

      • ehay2k - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:32 AM

        Why the personal attack on me? I didn’t say there were no coaches, no plan. And while Esco does indeed move around, in my opinion he moves too close in at times, especially when he thinks the batter may be bunting, and sometimes he gets burned. And it’s not just me – more than one person here, as well as other places including even FP who has played the game, has noted that Esco at times plays a tad shallow. I realize there are coaches, but players are also allowed some input. No coach is going to say – “You stand exactly here, no matter how uncomfortable you are with it.”

        But attacking me, implying I have not been to a game as a way to undercut my credibility, has no place here. You should be reinforcing your argument as opposed to resorting to ad-hominem attacks when you disagree with people.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:32 AM

        Not to mention outfielders getting a -0.5 jump on fly balls.

        Crap. Did I just report that comment?

        INADVERTENT WHISTLE. DISREGARD.

    • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      +19

      I wonder if that isn’t a “if X happens, let’s do Y” set play between the regulars, just get eye contact to acknowledge it. Escobar left very late on the wild pitch, as someone noted earlier, which would not be inconsistent with getting caught and creating a pickle on purpose, between two savvy baserunners.

      Either way, as EHay said, executed perfectly.

  14. ehay2k - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    LOL – someone reported that. Much appreciated, but I can defend myself. 🙂

  15. rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    I think the reality on the play was Esco made a bad play and only the ineptitude of the Mets bailed him out.1st and 3rd with Robinson at bat was the play not a reckless base running that could have taken us out of the inning.

  16. rlndtln - Jul 21, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    We brought Esco to play 2nd.Let Rendon who is fragile at best get knocked around at 2nd like Danny does who is indestructible and you will be happy when he is back on the DL.The real team next year will be esco at SS,danny 2nd and Rendon 3rd.This may happen now.

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