Sep 7, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT
In nearly 11 years of baseball back in the District, the Nationals have barely played any regular-season games of truly significant magnitude. Think about it: They ran away with the NL East title in both 2012 and 2014. They collapsed in 2005 before hitting the stretch run. They waited too long to go on their run in 2013.
Really, the only game in the last decade that comes to mind as a must-win game against another club in the race for the division came on July 21, 2012. The Nats had blown a 9-run lead to the Braves the night before, then lost the opener of a doubleheader, 4-0. Their lead was down to 1 1/2 games, and they needed John Lannan to come up from Syracuse to win the nightcap … which he did. And they were never really threatened again.
This, then, is arguably the biggest series this team has ever played, down 4 games to the Mets and trying to trim that deficit by at least another game by Wednesday night. The matchup for today’s opener is a favorable one, with Max Scherzer (0-2, but with an 0.61 ERA in two starts vs. New York this season) on the hill against Jonathan Niese (0-4 with a 4.50 ERA the last two seasons against the Nationals).
Ryan Zimmerman is back in the lineup after sitting out yesterday’s game, and everybody else is good to go, so the Nats have a full lineup. If you’re coming to the park or watching from home, check back here often for updates throughout…
NEW YORK METS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 89/869
Weather: Sunny, 85 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to CF
LF Jayson Werth
2B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Yunel Escobar
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
CF Michael Taylor
RHP Max Scherzer
RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
1B Daniel Murphy
CF Yoenis Cespedes
LF Michael Conforto
C Travis d’Arnaud
2B Kelly Johnson
SS Wilmer Flores
LHP Jonathan Niese
HP Paul Nauert
1B Dana DeMuth (cc)
2B Mike Estabrook
3B Ed Hickox
1:05 p.m. — And we’re underway on a scorching hot Labor Day here on South Capitol Street. Big crowd on hand, and a boisterous one at that.
1:25 p.m. — Talk about a wild top of the first. Two pitches in, Jayson Werth lost Curtis Granderson’s flyball in the sun. Then Granderson took third on a wild pitch, leaving Max Scherzer in a huge jam. But he got out of it, thanks to some respect for Bryce Harper’s arm (the Mets wouldn’t run on him on a routine flyball to right, and he fired a one-hop strike to the plate) and Scherzer’s ability to strike out both Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes. Big roar from the crowd after that one. The Nats, meanwhile, went down in order against Jonathan Niese, who struck out Harper on three pitches. Scoreless after one.
1:39 p.m. — Uh-oh, Scherzer’s home run issue continues. The Mets sent two balls over the fence in the top of the second, with Michael Conforto going opposite-field on a first-pitch fastball and Kelly Johnson taking an 0-1 breaking ball to right-center. That’s now 10 homers surrendered by Scherzer in his last 30 innings, which is not good at all. Seems like every ball hit hard off him is clearing the fence. The Nats had a chance to get something back in the bottom of the second, with singles by Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, but Yunel Escobar and Wilson Ramos each hit groundballs, the latter an inning-ending double play. So the Nats will have to rally today, down 2-0 after two.
1:57 p.m. — A pair of walks (to Scherzer and Rendon) brought Harper to the plate with 2 on and 2 out in the bottom of the third. Harper did what he needed to, lining a ball the other way off the lefty, but it was snagged by Conforto, and so the Nats strand a pair. Still 2-0 after three.
2:25 p.m. — Wow, what a turn of events in the fourth inning. The Mets got another solo homer, this one from Cespedes, who lofted one just over the left-field wall. But the Nats responded with one of their biggest offensive innings of the season, all things considered. They loaded the bases with one out for Ramos, who went down and crushed a 1-2 breaking ball below the knees and sent it flying over the left-field bullpen for a game-changing grand slam. The crowd erupted, and remained loud in a manner I’m not sure I ever remember for a regular-season game here. Just electric, and it continued through Werth’s RBI double, making this a 5-3 Nats lead and an early trip to the showers for Niese.
Chase here taking over for Mark while he starts his game story
2:59 p.m. — The Mets added another run to make it 5-4 in the fifth inning on back-to-back doubles by Tejada and Granderson. Scherzer has now given up four earned runs or more in four of his last six outings. The Nats got two men in scoring position with Scherzer due up. Instead of using a pinch-hitter – with Scherzer struggling and all – Matt Williams left him in there to bat. He promptly grounded out to second base to end the frame.
3:22 p.m. — The decision to leave Scherzer in there backfired as he gave up the tying run in the sixth. Cespedes led off with a double and moved to third on a balk. d’Arnaud then lined out to left field to score Cespedes and make it 5-5. Cespedes may have been aided by a sliding grab made by Werth, as it delayed his throw attempt to home. On to the seventh.
3:56 p.m. — The seventh inning was a complete trainwreck for the Nats, as they now trail the Mets 8-5. Blake Treinen began the inning and allowed a single. Felipe Rivero came in two batters later with a man on first and one out and walked Granderson. Casey Janssen then came in and allowed an RBI single to Wright. Williams only allowed Janssen to face one batter, as well, as he then turned to Matt Thornton. Thornton gave up an RBI double to Cespedes. The Nats went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning, so Rafael Martin will now come in to pitch the eighth with the Nats down three runs.
4:13 p.m. — It’s still 8-5 Mets after the eighth inning. Martin tossed a scoreless inning with a two-out single his only blemish. The Nats then went down 1-2-3 including a strikeouts by Taylor and Danny Espinosa, who replaced Yunel Escobar.
4:32 p.m. — Nats lose 8-5 in series opener to Mets. They are now five games back in the NL East.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
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)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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