The Washington Nationals unleashed a rare display of hitting clout on Tuesday night, hitting three home runs against the New York Mets. The catch was, they all were of the solo variety, and while the Mets didn't collect more than a double, that was enough to send Washington to its fifth loss in six games, 6-4, and overshadow catcher Wilson Ramos' first multi-homer performance.
Before an announced 14,603 at Nationals Park, Ramos connected off New York starter Chris Young in the second and fourth innings, and his second tied the score at 3. But Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann got into trouble in the sixth, and reliever Doug Slaten failed to bail him out when Mets catcher Josh Thole's two-RBI double produced what would be the decisive runs.
That's because the Nationals (10-12) responded with the third RBI of the game from Ramos, whose single in the eighth scored Rick Ankiel from third to cut the deficit to 5-4. Left fielder Michael Morse left Ramos stranded, though, when his fly ball to right landed safely in the glove of Carlos Beltran for the third out.
New York added an insurance run in the ninth off reliever Sean Burnett, who hit a pair of batters in the inning and surrendered third baseman David Wright's infield dribbler that brought home center fielder Jason Pridie. New York closer Francisco Rodriguez allowed a leadoff infield single to Jerry Hairston in the bottom of the ninth, but he retired the next three for his fifth save.
"They came in here hot, and they're still hot," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of the Mets. "They've got a nice lineup. When they're all healthy, they've got a nice lineup."
The Mets (10-13) extended their longest active winning streak in the National League to five thanks again to torrid hitting. They scored 27 runs over their previous four wins, and their bats remained lively in the early stages against Zimmermann, who worked into the sixth before exiting and getting saddled with his third consecutive loss.
Left fielder Jason Bay got New York started in the second with a leadoff single that skidded past Zimmermann (1-4). Second baseman Danny Espinosa was able to stop the ball from getting out of the infield, but by the time he was ready to throw to first, Bay was safely past the bag.
First baseman Ike Davis drove Zimmerman's 3-1 fastball hard down the left-field line and it landed just fair. Davis wound up on second and Bay got held up at third when umpires ruled fan interference along the railing.
Josh Thole grounded to short for the first out, but it was deep enough to score Bay with the first run. Pridie followed with a single to center that advanced Davis to third, and Young helped his cause with a sacrifice bunt for a 2-0 advantage.
The Nationals got one back in their half of the inning when Ramos deposited Young's 1-0 fastball into the visiting bullpen for his first home run of the season and the second of his budding big league career. That long ball certainly was a most uncommon result as of late, when Ramos had gone 2-for-16 over his past four games, and in hindsight an indicator of good things ahead.
Zimmermann courted danger again to start the third by yielding a leadoff double to second baseman Daniel Murphy. After third baseman David Wright grounded to second to move him up, Beltran sent Zimmermann's offering deep to right over Jayson Werth's head to score Murphy.
Werth bounced off the wall before trying to field the ball, but he was unable to pick it up cleanly. Beltran, meantime, rounded second and slid into third on what was scored a double and an error, Werth's second in as many games.
Zimmermann averted further damage by getting Bay and Davis to ground out, and after he retired the side in the fourth, his teammates offered support with more power hitting. Werth delivered first with a leadoff homer that landed approximately 10 rows deep in the left-field seats. Two batters later, Ramos sent Young's 1-1 fastball to nearly the same area.
Washington chased Young in the fifth after he walked consecutive batters and Ankiel moved them to second and third with a fly ball to center for the second out. The Mets' 6-foot-10 right-hander went 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and three earned runs on 88 pitches before reliever Ryota Igarashi (1-0) fanned Werth to preserve the tie.
The night also was over for Zimmermann (5 1/3 innings, nine hits, five earned runs, no walks) shortly thereafter, when Bay and Davis singled consecutively with one out. That prompted a visit to the mound from Riggleman, who called for Slaten to face the left-handed Thole.
Playing the percentages didn't work this time. Even though Slaten had led NL left-hander relievers last season by limiting left-handed hitters to a .151 average, Thole ripped a slider to left that landed tantalizingly in front of Morse's outstretched arm.
"That's the number one key to my job, probably, is coming in and getting guys out with guys on base," Slaten said. "Right now there's a few that have dropped in. I still have confidence going out there throwing pitches, throwing strikes, and you know, luck will change a bit."