Two rollicking victories preceded the Nationals’ Thursday matinee, games packed with adrenaline and action, wild moments and harebrained twists. But Dickey lulled the Nationals to sleep over 71
3 innings in a 3-1 loss, costing the hosts a sweep and ensuring their lead in the National League East would be down to one game after Thursday. Chien-Ming Wang kept the Nationals in the game by allowing two runs over 51
3 rocky innings, but Dickey’s mastery sucked the life out of Nationals Park, even with 32,096 in attendance.
As the Nationals packed their bags for Boston to play the Red Sox, their first of five consecutive series against the American League East, Manager Davey Johnson called into question whether Bryce Harper would play Friday at Fenway Park.
Johnson said Harper had a “tender” lower back, a revelation prompted by Harper getting the wind knocked out of him as he dove fruitlessly for a flyball in the ninth inning. Asked if Harper would play Friday, Johnson said: “He might not. We’ll see how he is on the trip.”
Harper, who has played in all 35 games since the Nationals summoned him from Class AAA, appeared surprised his back had become an issue. He said categorically that he would not sit out.
“I’m totally fine,” Harper said. “I’m going to play. I won’t be out of the lineup.”
Harper occasionally wraps his back in ice after games, nothing out of the ordinary for a postgame clubhouse in June. Asked when he first hurt his back, Harper replied: “I didn’t hurt it. I’m good. Don’t worry about it. Feel great.”
The Nationals instead could worry about Wang, who has not found consistency in either of his first two starts since replacing Ross Detwiler in the rotation. On Thursday, Wang yielded eight hits and three walks and also hit a batter, needing 84 pitches for 16 outs. In his first two starts, both losses, Wang has allowed 22 base runners over 91
“Right now, I just need to pitch more innings and get settled,” Wang said through an interpreter. “Once I get the feel back, I should be fine.”
Wang loaded the bases in the second and third innings and escaped each jam, the second with a double-play ball chopped right back at him. He collected enough groundballs with his sinker to keep the Mets scoreless through four innings, but a bad habit cost him when Lucas Duda pummeled a two-run homer to right in fifth.
Wang’s inconsistency rises from one issue with his delivery. As he swings his arm toward the plate, he too often throws with his hand to the side of the ball rather than on top of it. The mistake causes the ball to run across the plate rather than sink. As a result, pitches stay up and groundballs become liners.