“I’ve been looking at them for a while now,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said.
Added Jayson Werth: “It’s been that way for 10 days, two weeks. As soon as September rolls around, things are pretty serious. We got a chance to do something here.”
September for these Nationals is also a time when all of their regular starters are healthy and firing at once. With the magnitude of the situation apparent to all, they rise to the occasion. Bench players, once everyday starters when others were injured, slam important game-changing home runs late in the game. The lineup’s first two hitters batter a leading Cy Young Award candidate and, eventually, they all chase him from the game.
On the first pitch he saw from Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore drilled a two-run home run in the seventh inning that gave the Nationals a lead they didn’t relinquish.
Werth and Bryce Harper, who notched a career-high four hits, formed a terrorizing duo atop the batting order until Moore delivered the crushing blow. And as an added benefit, Moore saddled Dickey with a loss, preventing him from joining another Cy Young hopeful, Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, with 19 wins.
“That’s the best lineup that I’ve faced,” Dickey said. “They’re just so functional. They’ve got guys that can run. They’ve got great energy. They’ve got old guys that have good approaches. They’ve got young guys that go first to third on you. They’ve got power. Every one of them can hit a home run on you, just about. There’s not a lot of breathing room.”
In the remaining games before an important series against the Braves this weekend, the Nationals have put themselves in a comfortable position. They have one more game remaining against the Mets, but have guaranteed a series win. They matched their season-high 71
2-game lead in the division. They will enter this weekend’s three-game series against Atlanta with no less than a 61
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann battled both himself and Mets hitters for five innings. His fastball command was shaky. Being efficient and aggressive is large part of his approach, and when he missed on his first pitch to start, he knew what was to come.
“I felt good tonight,” Zimmermann said, “just missing a little bit on the corner and if I can’t throw strike one, it’s going to be a long night for me.”
He allowed six base runners, including three walks, through the first three innings but prevented all from scoring by working magic when it mattered. The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the fifth with three straight hits off Zimmermann. But he kept the game close for Moore to give the Nationals the lead.