The New York Mets (40-37) fell by a score of 4-2 on Wednesday night in DC to the Washington Nationals (47-32). The loss capped off a sweep at the hands of the Nats and dropped the Mets to 6 games back in the NL East.
Logan Verrett pitched fairly well for the Mets in a spot start, allowing 2 runs in 5 innings.
But the Mets did nothing against Nationals stud Max Scherzer, who struck out 10 and allowed just 2 hits and a walk in 7.1 scoreless innings.
The Mets fell behind early, as they have done far too often lately, when former Met Daniel Murphy let off the bottom of the second with a solo shot. Washington scored again in the next inning when Brandon Nimmo misplayed a fly ball that turned into a double for Danny Espinosa, who later scored on a sacrifice fly from Jason Werth.
The game crawled on uneventfully for several innings until the top of the eighth. With Scherzer cruising and the Nats up 2-0, Nimmo put together a terrific at-bat that ended in a single up the middle. Former Met Ollie Perez came in and allowed a pinch-hit single to Curtis Granderson, before being replaced by Blake Treinen. Treinen got a slow roller from pinch-hitter Travis d’Arnaud for the second out, but the tying runs both moved up a base, bringing Alejandro De Aza up with a chance to tie the game with a single. But De Aza continued his monumental struggles, striking out against Shawn Kelley to end the inning.
The Nationals tacked on what seemed like unnecessary insurance against a lifeless offense in the top of the 9th, when Murphy took Sean Gilmartin deep with a man on base for his second home run of the year, tying his career high of 14 in a season (it’s June 29th).
But that insurance proved to be the difference, as the Mets put together a rally in the top of the ninth against Kelley. After Neil Walker struck out, Yoenis Cespedes singled and James Loney hit a two-run shot to make it 4-2. Asdrubal Cabrera then whiffed before Kelly Johnson doubled to bring Brandon Nimmo up as the tying run, but for the second time in his week-old Major League career, Nimmo struck out looking to end the ballgame.
Verrett did his job tonight. He kept us in the game, which is all you can ask from a guy making a spot start against one of the game’s best pitchers. The only thing he could have done better was give the Mets more length to rest a tired bullpen. If Verrett stays in the game longer, Gilmartin doesn’t pitch the ninth and give up that crucial home run. But Verrett’s shaky control ran his pitch count up early in the game.
The Mets led 4-0 in the third inning of game 1 of this series, but trailed after all but 2 innings the rest of the series. We didn’t make the Nationals work too hard en route to what was a huge sweep for our rivals, who are now six games up in the division.
There’s plenty of baseball left to play, but the Mets are in gut-check mode as far as the divisional race is concerned. They have 4 games with the MLB-best Cubs, while the Nationals will play 4 with the Reds (probably the worst team in baseball right now). We then play 3 with the Marlins while the Nats play 3 with the Brewers (another bad team, albeit one that has given both the Mets and the Nationals trouble recently) before the two teams meet again for a 4-game set, this time at Citi Field.
If things break well for the Mets between now and then, they will likely still be about six back. Winning three or possibly even four against Washington at home would keep the Mets right on the Nationals’ heels going into the break, so that series will be huge, and the Mets will need to play much better than they did over the last three days. If Washington wins that series, the standings will start to look ugly.
It was nice to see the Mets put together a rally in the ninth in this game, even if it was a bit frustrating (we needed 2 runs most of the night, and finally got 2 when we needed 4). The bats looked better in those final two innings, and maybe that’s what the team needs heading into a meeting with a team hell-bent on revenge.
Let’s sweep the Cubbies again, for old times’ sake.