The 2012 Washington Nationals just will not go down without a fight. After losing the lead on a blown save in the ninth and twice being one out from defeat, the Nats beat the Mets 5-4 on a wild pitch by Pedro Beato that brought Ryan Zimmerman home for the walk-off win.
The victory was their second of the season on a game-ending wild pitch, but given the lead changes it may have been their most exciting win all year.
Thats my kind of ballgame, manager Davey Johnson said. Ive said it a hundred times, the makeup on this ballclub is off the charts. Theres no give-up, they are all competitive.
The Nats rallied to tie the game in the tenth after catcher Jhonatan Solano led off with a single. Bryce Harper then belted a 1-0 slider off Tim Byrdak, a line drive that flew over Scott Hairstons head and bounced off the wall. Solano scored to make it 4-4 and Harper broke up a David Wright tag attempt on a head-first slide to land safely at third.
The Mets then intentionally walked Zimmerman and Ian Desmond to get Tyler Moore to the plate. Moore took the wild pitch on a 1-2 count against Beato to let Zimmerman come home.
I'm trying to make him hurry up, tell him come on and score, Moore said. It was going on long enough. I'm just glad we got a run across.
I didn't know it got away at first because he was kind of blocking me with the angle but it hit the dirt pretty hard and it bounced up on him. I'm just glad it got away from him enough where we could score.
Moore hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to put the Nats up 1-0, his fifth of the season. He is just 25 years old and in his first big league season, one of the youngest players along with Harper, 19, who had the game-tying hit. 23-year-old Steve Lombardozzi also had a big hit in giving the Nats a two-run led in the eighth with an RBI single, along with some key defensive plays at second base.
The trio of young players once again played a role in a Nats victory and their manager has taken notice.
They have been doing it all year, Johnson said. Tyler Moore and Lombardozzi, it is a tribute to the organization. They got some really smart people out there, really signing good athletes with good makeup. Theyve been doing it every year since Ive been here and theres more coming.
The Nationals also saw a great performance from their young pitcher in 26-year-old Ross Detwiler. Detwiler pitched seven scoreless innings and would have been the story of the game if it werent for a few late mistakes by the bullpen. Detwiler finished with zero earned runs, five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts. He left the game with only 86 pitches and would have liked to stay in for the eighth.
I think Johnson knows that. I know what hes doing there. I kind of struggled my last couple outings and he wants me to get out of there with a chance to get the victory," Detwiler said. "But I thought I had a little more in the tank, but what is it, 112 here today?
It was actually 99 degrees when Detwiler threw the first pitch, but the seven innings he lasted was the most he has pitched in a game all year. He has pitched at least seven just three times in his career with a career high of 7.1 innings in 2011. All in all it was the best outing of Detwilers season and that is saying something. He now sits with a 3.15 ERA through 85.2 innings this year, pretty good for a fifth starter.
The shame of the game is that Det played a great game. That was an unbelievable game, I mean eleven days off and seven strong innings, Johnson said. He just really pitched great. He had great stuff, his fastball was just diving and moving. It was just a great effort, its a shame we wasted it for him.
Detwiler left after seven with a one-run lead and a shutout going. Sean Burnett took care of business in the eighth, but Tyler Clippard struggled and blew the save in the ninth. He gave the Mets a lead on a three-run homer by a pinch-hitting Jordany Valdespin. Danny Espinosa then tied the game for the Nationals in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single to score Ian Desmond.
Michael Gonzalez started the tenth and gave up a leadoff single to Daniel Murphy. Murphy was advanced to second on a Kirk Nieuwenhuis sacrifice bunt and then scored home on a double by Josh Thole.
The Nationals moved to 52-36 on the season, sixteen games above .500 on July 17 for the first time since moving to Washington. With the Braves recent hot streak, the Nats will have to make close games like this one count if they want to hold on and win the division.
Thats what first-place teams do. They find a way to win every game possible. This is a big month for us, playing the Marlins, Mets and Braves coming in next, Detwiler said. We just need to go out there and do the best we can to win every game.