The Washington Nationals are making a late push for the playoffs, and sending Jordan Zimmermann and his NL high-tying 15 wins to the mound Friday night should give them another opportunity to make up ground in the wild-card race.
Washington swept three games from Miami and won for the 14th time in 19 contests with a 9-0 victory Thursday night. The Nationals' hot stretch has enabled them to pull within 6 1/2 games of Cincinnati for the second wild-card spot.
"We're a scary team when we're going good, and I think everybody knows that," outfielder Bryce Harper said.
Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth hit three-run homers, and Harper added a two-run shot Thursday to extend his career-best hitting streak to 11 games as Washington improved to 8-1 in its last nine contests. Desmond is 13 for 26 with three homers and eight RBIs over the last six games.
Zimmermann (15-7, 3.32 ERA) matched up with Gee (9-9, 3.69) on April 21 in New York and gave up two runs over five innings in a 2-0 loss. Zimmermann has a 3.20 ERA in three starts against the Mets (60-72) but no wins to show for it.
Gee has been at his best when facing the Nationals (68-65). He won his first three starts against them behind a 0.96 ERA before allowing four runs over seven innings in a 4-1 loss at Washington on July 27.
Zimmermann struggled two starts ago in an 11-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs before bouncing back in Kansas City on Saturday. After tying career highs with eight runs and three homers allowed in Chicago, he gave up two runs in 7 2-3 innings to beat the Royals 7-2 and tie St. Louis' Adam Wainwright for the NL lead in wins.
"Against the Cubs, I was nibbling a little bit and throwing too many offspeed pitches and that's not the way I pitch," Zimmermann told the Nationals' official website. "(The Royals) knew that and they were super aggressive and I was able to mix the changeup around the fourth inning on. I got some quick outs and I was able to stay in the game a little longer."
Following last month's loss in Washington, Gee went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in his next four starts before losing 11-3 to Detroit on Sunday. He allowed four runs and a season high-tying 10 hits in six innings.
Gee lost for only the third time in 16 starts and entered with a 2.27 ERA since May 30, the fourth-best mark in the majors during that span.
The Mets won for the second time in three contests following a five-game skid, 11-3 over Philadelphia on Thursday. Daniel Murphy went 4 for 5 with two RBIs and Eric Young went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs.
Murphy is 9 for 31 (.290) with three homers and two doubles against Zimmermann, who is 10-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 15 home starts.
|New York Mets|
|August 27, 2013||Matt Harvey||15-Day DL||Torn right UCL - out for season|
|August 26, 2013||Matt Harvey||Day-to-Day||Torn right elbow ligament|
|August 18, 2013||Jenrry Mejia||15-Day DL||Right elbow discomfort|
|August 17, 2013||Jenrry Mejia||Day-to-Day||Right elbow discomfort|
|August 10, 2013||Jeremy Hefner||15-Day DL||Partially torn ligament, right elbow|
|August 03, 2013||David Wright||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|August 22, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 17, 2013||Taylor Jordan||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 13, 2013||Wilson Ramos||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|August 11, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Right knee|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Dillon Gee lost track of the count and pulled off a bad acting job that fooled his own manager. Daniel Murphy didn't stop running from second on a groundball to third, scoring the crucial insurance run. Bryce Harper failed to hustle on a grounder, prompting the substitute manger to proclaim: "It's something we've got to fix."
Such little dramas make for fascinating baseball, enough to make the New York Mets ' 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Friday night something more than a playing-out-the-string team beating one trying to keep faint hopes alive.
Gee (10-9) mastered the Nationals the way he always does, allowing six hits and two solo home runs over 7 2-3 innings and outdueling Jordan Zimmermann (15-8) as the Mets won for only the third time in nine games. Gee is 7-2 lifetime against Washington.
His weird moment came when he flexed his arm awkwardly after a pitch to Ian Desmond in the seventh inning. The manager and trainer rushed onto the field, only to learn that Gee had lost track of the count. Gee thought he had struck out Desmond and was genuflecting to save face after realizing there were only two strikes.
"I feel bad. I felt like an idiot out there," Gee said. "I tried to play it off and played it off the wrong way and then they come out. It was just a disaster."
Gee then got Desmond to swing at a low pitch for strike three.
It was Murphy's hustle that gave the Mets a 3-1 lead in the eighth. On second base after a two-out double, he didn't slow down after Andrew Brown hit a smash down the line. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made the stop, but he unwisely uncorked a no-hope throw to first on the run. Adam LaRoche couldn't field the short hop, allowing Murphy to score easily while Brown got credit for a single and an RBI.
"Coming around third there, once I thought Zimmerman was going to throw it to first, and I felt like I could make the play at the plate," Murphy said. "If he puts in his pocket, I'm dead."
Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr , in charge for most of the game after manager Davey Johnson left the dugout due to illness, couldn't blame Zimmerman for not eating the ball.
"In his mind, he's trying to get the out," Knorr said. "I bet he's thinking right now that maybe I should've done it that way, but he's made great plays so you can't fault him for that."
Knorr had stronger words for Harper, the 20-year-old slugger who came to the plate with men on first and second and two outs in a one-run game.
With a 3-0 count against reliever Scott Rice - and with hot-hitting Jayson Werth on deck - Harper swung at an inside pitch and fouled it off. Then he swung again at 3-1 - "probably ball four," he called it - and hit a grounder to second, where Murphy bobbled the ball but could take his time recovering because Harper wasn't hustling to first.
Knorr doesn't fault himself for giving Harper the green light - and he's fine with Harper swinging at the pitch - but he wants to see the young slugger run out the grounder.
"I don't think he does it intentionally, but he's going to have to start picking it up a little bit because we've got everybody else doing it," Knorr said. "And he gets frustrated at times and it just comes out in him.
"It's something that we've got to fix. ... He's got a lot going on. It's hard for me to say; I'm not 20 years old in the big leagues with stuff going on around me. It's something we've got to get to the bottom of, and keep talking to him because eventually we're just going to have to take him out of the game."
Asked what happened on the play, Harper said: "I have no clue. Groundout to Murphy, he's pretty good over there, so in that situation I think he makes that play every single day."
Told what Knorr said about the play, Harper replied: "I'll guess I learn from it."
The Nationals, who began the day 6 1/2 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the NL's second wild-card spot, lost for just the second time in 10 games.
Gee faced three batters above the minimum through seven innings. The only scoreboard damage came on Wilson Ramos ' homer to lead off the third and pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi 's two-out solo shot in the eighth.
Zimmermann, who remains tied with Adam Wainwright for the NL lead in wins, allowed three runs and six hits over 7 2-3 innings. He didn't allow a hit until Murphy's single to lead off the fourth, but that was followed two batters later by Ike Davis ' opposite-field home run.
Notes: Knorr said Johnson left the dugout sometime around the fourth inning. "He's fine. I think he's coming down with something," Knorr said. "He got a little light-headed, so he just went back upstairs. I think he might be catching a cold or something." ... LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his sixth save. ... Nationals CF Denard Span stretched his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games, while Harper's 11-game hitting streak came to an end.
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