Nationals blow 6-run lead, lose to Mets 8-7 in NL East duel
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Nationals had a six-run lead and needed only nine outs to trim their deficit in the NL East.
From that point on, nothing went right.
The Nationals' bullpen gave away the entire advantage in the seventh inning, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a pinch-homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth and the New York Mets escaped with an 8-7 victory Tuesday night to lengthen their division lead over Washington to six games.
Afterward, the Nationals had no choice but to look ahead and try to forget this disappointing defeat as soon as possible.
"This season is far from over," Papelbon said. "Everybody's got to pick up everybody in every count, in every situation. There's nothing else we can do. We've got to keep grinding, go out and win another ballgame tomorrow."
Manager Matt Williams offered a similar spin.
"There's times where things go well. And you understand that there's times on the other side of that coin," he said. "So what do you do? You pick yourselves up by the bootstraps and you go. You don't have a choice at this point."
The Mets erased the deficit with a six-run seventh fueled by six walks - half of them by Drew Storen - and a wild pitch (also by Storen). The big blow was a three-run double by Yoenis Cespedes, who one inning earlier committed an error that allowed three runs to score.
Nieuwenhuis gave New York its first lead with a drive to right off Papelbon (3-2), obtained before the July 31 trade deadline to help Washington's drive toward the postseason. It was Nieuwenhuis' fourth home run; the other three came in one game against Arizona on July 12.
"We're playing like we don't have anything to lose, and that's what we need to do," Nieuwenhuis said. "I'm just going to enjoy the ride."
Addison Reed (3-2) worked the seventh and Jeurys Familia got three outs for his 38th save. With two runners on, Familia got Yunel Escobar to ground into a game-ending double play.
Mets starter Matt Harvey allowed a career high-tying seven runs in 5 1-3 innings.
Harvey has thrown 171 2-3 innings this year, his first season since undergoing elbow ligament-replacement surgery in October 2013. He and the Mets want to keep his innings count at around 180-185 for the regular season, so it is possible this was Harvey's last start until early October or in the postseason.
Until that time, the right-hander will have this game to ponder. He came in with a 0.99 ERA against the Nationals, and the seven runs he allowed were one more than in his previous six starts combined.
It was 3-1 in the sixth when the Nationals used a single, a walk and a bunt to load the bases. Wilson Ramos struck out before Michael Taylor lined an RBI single to center, and three more runs came home when the ball got past Cespedes and rolled to the wall.
That ended Harvey's night, but the Mets' comeback prevented him from falling to 12-8.
Mets: Manager Terry Collins expects RHP Carlos Torres, who left Monday's game with a left calf strain, to miss at least a week or two. ... LF Michael Cuddyer (right wrist tendinitis) was scheduled to take some swings.
Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman was out of the starting lineup with a sore left oblique, an injury that occurred as he took a swing Monday. "We're trying to calm that down as much as we can," Williams said. The hope is that Zimmerman can return Wednesday to extend a hitting streak that's reached 11 games.
ROSS TO BULLPEN
Nationals rookie Joe Ross (5-5, 3.79 ERA) was moved to the bullpen because he is near his maximum innings count this season. "He's a little fatigued, so to ask him to go out every fifth day and pitch six innings would be unfair," Williams said. Ross will be replaced in the starting rotation by Tanner Roark.
Mets: Jacob deGrom (12-7, 2.40 ERA) pitches Wednesday night in the series finale. The right-hander is 9-3 with a 2.05 ERA over his last 19 starts.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (8-6, 4.35 ERA) returns after missing a start with upper back tightness. "There will be no pitch limitations. We think he's going to pitch admirably," general manager Mike Rizzo said.
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