Quick Links

Nats pounce late on Mets

824895.png

Nats pounce late on Mets

NEW YORK -- As the night wore on and they helplessly flailed away at every 84 mph fastball Chris Young flung toward the plate, there was perhaps no sweeter sight for the Nationals than that of the Mets bullpen door swinging open for the top of the eighth and someone other than the 6-foot-10 right-hander trotting to the mound.

"When he came out of the game, some of the guys felt better," left fielder Michael Morse said. "I know me, I felt better."

It took two more innings of unproductive swings, but finally in the top of the 10th the Nationals took advantage of the worst bullpen in baseball, pounding Pedro Beato into submission during a six-run explosion that led to one of the odder line scores you'll ever see: Nationals 8, Mets 2 (10).

"It's kind of the makeup of our team," Morse said. "We just never quit. ... We just kept coming, kept pushing. Lately, it doesn't matter how many runs you get, you just have to keep adding them and keep going."

What had been a tense pitchers' duel played under a light rain, with Young and Jordan Zimmermann swapping zeroes, turned into a lopsided Nationals victory once the game advanced beyond regulation. Held to four hits through nine innings (three in the first, one in the ninth) they exploded for five in the top of the 10th alone, four of them coming in rapid-fire succession.

It began with a Roger Bernadina single that ricocheted off left-hander Tim Byrdak. Bernadina then helped break up a potential double play by sliding hard into shortstop Ruben Tejada, spikes against shin. A botched sacrifice bunt attempt by Mark DeRosa led to an out and took the speedy Bernadina off the basepaths. But Steve Lombardozzi's single up the middle loaded the bases and set the stage for the meat of the Nationals' lineup to deliver when it really counted.

First up was Bryce Harper, who had clubbed a two-run homer way back in the top of the first, and now smoked an 0-1 curveball from Beato over the second baseman's head, bringing home the go-ahead run.

Harper's strategy in that situation?

"Don't roll over and turn it into a double play," the 19-year-old said. "That was the only thing I was thinking up there. I was trying to get some backspin on something and just get it to the outfield, score the guy on third. In that situation, that's all you try to do."

The bases still loaded, Ryan Zimmerman stepped up. The hottest hitter in the NL over the last month wasn't the least bit relaxed now that his team held a 3-2 lead.

"No. We want to get as many runs as we can," he said. "Especially in that situation with less than two outs and the bases loaded. We needed to tack on a few there."

So Zimmerman calmly mashed a double to the gap in right-center. DeRosa scored. Lombardozzi scored. Harper scored, nearly lapping Lombardozzi in the process.

"I didn't think anything of it," Harper said. "Third base coach Bo Porter said: 'You gotta go.' I thought: 'If he slides in front of me, I better slide the other way.'"

Now leading 6-2, Morse dug in knowing he could take as big a hack as he liked. Boy, did he ever, launching the ball to deep right-center for his sixth homer in 31 games and turning this once nip-and-tuck ballgame into an 8-2 laugher for the visitors.

"It was nice that the bats woke up," Davey Johnson said.

The 69-year-old manager had made a couple of curious decisions with his pitching staff that perhaps allowed the game to reach extra innings in the first place. He pulled Zimmermann after six stellar innings and only 89 pitches, though he explained that was his plan all along, not wanting to push the young starter too far knowing he'll need him to remain fresh come September and beyond.

Zimmermann, who now has pitched at least six innings in all 20 of his starts and boasts an 0.95 ERA over his last six games, seemed to understand his manager's thinking.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "I haven't been throwing too many pitches, so it's a long season and we still have a long ways to go. I hope I'm still fresh at the end of the year."

With Zimmermann out of the game, Johnson turned to Drew Storen to face slugger David Wright in the bottom of the seventh. And that's all he faced, because Johnson returned to take the ball from the recently activated right-hander after he got Wright to fly out to deep center field.

Johnson is still trying to ease Storen (who missed 3 12 months following elbow surgery) back into a late-inning role, and the right-hander said he knew this appearance would be brief. But it still had to be painful to watch lefty Michael Gonzalez enter and immediately serve up a game-tying home run to Ike Davis on his very first pitch.

"I'm still organizing the bullpen to where I'm comfortable with it," Johnson said. "I don't want to constantly put the heat on Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard. I have a lot of confidence in all the guys out there, I just need to get them a little more lined-up here so I feel comfortable with them and they feel comfortable."

The method might have been a bit unconventional, but ultimately it worked. Ryan Mattheus pitched a scoreless eighth, and Tom Gorzelanny kept the Mets from scoring in both the ninth and 10th innings to secure the win.

Combined with the Braves' loss in Miami, the Nationals saw their lead in the NL East jump to 4 12 games.

All thanks to a sudden flurry of clutch hits from a team that for nine previous innings could barely buy one against the Mets.

"We're a confident team," Zimmerman said. "We know if we can hang around and give ourselves a chance, that's all we need."

Quick Links

Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

When Bryce Harper went down Saturday night during the Nationals' game against the San Francisco Giants, everyone in D.C. stopped breathing for a moment. This was true even for Nats GM Mike Rizzo.

"We've all felt it," Rizzo said. "You get that little pit in your stomach and it's the same feeling I had when [Wilson] Ramos went out."

RELATED: HOW JUDGE COULD HELP NATS KEEP HARPER IN WASHINGTON

The Nats' star right fielder was running out a ground ball to first base when his left leg hit a slippery base, causing his knee to hyperextend. Harper immediately went down and grabbed his knee in agony. He eventually had to be helped off the field.

The team has been plagued with injuries this season, from the bullpen to outfielders.

After the initial shock of seeing one of his best players go down with what could have been a season-ending injury, Rizzo told the Sports Junkies he went in 'GM mode.'

"You immediately go to GM mode. We immediately called our farm director, Doug Harris, and made arrangements to get Michael Taylor on a plane. Pull him out of the game in double A, get him on a plane and bring him here because we knew that we needed a player that next day. You know, you gotta change gears quick."

"Then I went down to see Harp in the clubhouse. When I saw him walking up the stairs from the dugout to the clubhouse, I was a little bit relieved. You never know with those injuries. Until you get the MRIs, until you see maybe a day or two later what transpired in there, you have to be cautiously optimistic, I guess that it wasn't an [Adam] Eaton type of thing where you knew immediately that he was gone for the season."

While everyone was waiting to see the severity of Harper's injury, Mike Rizzo and his team were making a game plan.

"You go into your evaluation mode. You look at the depth of your roster. What's next? You get the cabinet together, we were all in the GM box watching the game, so we were all together and kind of put our heads together to try to come up with a plan.

"If it's a light injury, if it's a year-ending injury, what do we do? What are the plans? And you know, you put plans together. If I'm not mistaken it was like the first inning or second inning or something like that. It was early in the game, so we had three hours to lament over it and think about what we're trying to do and put a game plan together kind of on the fly. We literally had Michael Taylor flying into D.C. later that evening so we kind of had to turn things around pretty quickly."

Now that the GM knows Harper's injury is a significant bone bruise, what steps does the team take to get him back on the diamond as soon as possible?

"If I had a time frame for you, I would give it to you. But there's no sense of putting on a time frame because the injury, the bone bruise, has to heal before he can do any type of rehab, stimulated rehab, baseball activities. He's not doing anything below the waist.

"He's doing his workout programs. He's doing all his weight work, all his cardio, all the things he has to do above the waist. But, we don't want him weight-bearing impacting with running and hitting and spinning, you know when you stick a swing and that type of thing, until he feels much much better and he's asymptomatic with the pain in his knee."

Rizzo said Harper will eventually progress to an AlterG treadmill, an anti-gravity treadmill that speeds up the rehabilitation process by supporting as much or as little body weight as needed.

Quick Links

Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

usatsi_10220610.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez allowed two hits in six scoreless innings, Howie Kendrick hit two solo home runs and the Washington Nationals snapped the Los Angeles Angels' winning streak at six with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Gonzalez (11-5) struck out four and issued three walks in lowering his home ERA to 1.79, now the best in baseball. The left-hander, who was three outs from a no-hitter July 31 at Miami, allowed his first hit two hits into the fifth against the Angels.

Los Angeles, which had climbed into an AL wild-card spot during its streak, lost for the first time since Aug. 7. Tyler Skaggs (1-3) allowed the two home runs to Kendrick and five other hits while striking out six in five innings.

Kendrick has homered in three of his past four at-bats after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning Sunday night against San Francisco.

Playing their third game since Bryce Harper went on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee, the Nationals got an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch by Bud Norris and an error on Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. That provided some extra breathing room when Cliff Pennington hit a home run in the eighth, the first run Brandon Kintzler has allowed since being traded to Washington from Minnesota.

With Ryan Madson's availability in question after dealing with a blister Sunday, the Nationals went with Matt Albers in the seventh, Kintzler in the eighth and Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Doolittle picked up his 12th save of the season and his ninth with Washington.