Nationals beat Mets 5-3, post rare series win
Standing near the on-deck circle, Bryce Harper did a little sideways shimmy as he rocked his bat back and forth horizontally in the last of the third inning.
The Nationals slugger then congratulated teammate Anthony Rendon, who had just lined a two-run homer inside the left field foul pole to help galvanize a 5-3 win on Wednesday afternoon against the visiting New York Mets.
For two days at least, all is well in Nats Nation as the defending National League East champions try to claw back into the division race. Washington (54-53) won both games of the two-game series the first series win for the Nationals since early July against the Miami Marlins.
“We are all pulling in the right direction, the same direction,” Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said Tuesday. “We are going to get this thing turned around. We are going to get things going in the right direction and do something special. I think we all truly believe that. I think it is within us.”
After a record-setting 25-4 blitzing of the Mets on Tuesday night, the Nationals reverted to a more conventional approach on a cloudy but blue sky day at Nationals Park: Two-out hitting with runners on base, a homer and a stopgap start by lefty pitcher Tommy Milone.
Harper (2-for-4), the subject of trade rumors earlier in the week, had a two-out RBI single in the first Wednesday to score Trea Turner for a 1-0 lead. Turner scored three runs and stole two more bases.
Rendon, who had three hits Tuesday, then gave the Nationals a 3-0 lead with the two-run homer off Mets starter Noah Syndergaard (6-2) in the third. That gave Rendon six RBI in the past two games after he had taken time off for the birth of his first child last week.
Milone (1-0), who began the season at Triple-A Syracuse, was pitching a shutout until Jose Reyes hit a solo homer just barely over the fence down the left field line to make it 3-1 in the sixth.
Milone, who pitched for the Mets last season, gave up just one run on three hits in seven innings on Wednesday in his second start for injured hurler Stephen Strasburg.
Nationals reliever Ryan Madson allowed a homer to Reyes to start the eighth as the Mets trimmed the lead to 3-2. But Washington infielders Matt Adams and Wilmer Difo drove in unearned runs in the eighth to make it 5-2.
Filling in for injured closer Sean Doolittle, Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera got the last three outs in the ninth for the save. Herrera, though, did give up a homer to Wilmer Flores after the ball hit left fielder Juan Soto’s glove before going over the fence.
The third-place Nationals began the day 5 games back of the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the East race.
Washington still has not won back-to-back series since May 25-30 when it swept the Marlins and Orioles in a pair of three-game sets.
Before the game, the Nationals designated veteran reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment and called up pitcher Jimmy Cordero from Triple-A Syracuse.
The move of veteran Kelley came after he threw his glove to the ground and glared into the Nationals dugout after he gave up a three-run homer to Austin Jackson in the ninth inning of mopup duty Tuesday over the Mets.
“I couldn’t see how he could face the rest of his teammates and the coaching staff and the manager again after such a selfish act,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “It’s the front of the jersey I’m worried about, not the name on the back, and you’re in, or you’re in the way.”
Manager Dave Martinez said Cordero, 26, was “lights out” with Triple-A Syracuse.
“He’s throwing 97, 99 [mph]. He’s got a really good slider,” Martinez said. “Biggest thing for us after seeing him in spring training is that he’s throwing strikes.”
Kelley’s move can also be seen as a statement for clubhouse unity. Brandon Kintzler had been outspoken about his usage out of the bullpen and was traded Monday to the Chicago Cubs.
Is there clubhouse dysfunction?
“That is absolutely false,” Eaton said. “I have been on some dysfunctional teams, but this ain’t it.”
Perhaps now that is the case as the last two days have resulted in two wins and the departure of two disgruntled relievers.
NOTES: The Nationals begin a four-game series at home Thursday night against the Cincinnati Reds and manager Jim Riggleman, who grew up in Rockville and managed the Nationals from 2009-2011. Ace Max Scherzer (14-5, 2.30) starts for the Nationals against the Reds’ Tyler Mahle (7-8, 4.53) ... The Nationals are 25-25 at home ... The game time temperature was 83 degrees and the contest drew 34,319 for the 12:05 p.m. start.