The Washington Nationals’ topsy-turvy season continued on Friday, with enough twists and turns in one day to fill a novel. They suffered one of the worst defeats of the season in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the New York Mets, as their offense, stalwart starter and former closer stumbled. They stared down a virtual tie in the standings with the rebuilding Mets until Ryan Zimmerman clobbered a walk-off homer in the second game to salvage a doubleheader split.
Zimmerman’s ninth career walk-off homer gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory in the night game, a second walk-off win in two days that moved them into second place in the National League East, still 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals dropped the first game of the doubleheader, an 11-0 drubbing by the Mets, when Jordan Zimmermann gave up five runs and struggling reliever Drew Storen made his last appearance, despite suffering from the flu, before being sent to the minors after the doubleheader to correct his season.
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“Unfortunately, it’s a roller coaster ride,” Zimmerman said after the night game in a subdued clubhouse following the hectic day. “We’ve been down a little bit more than we’ve been up this year. But just gotta keep going.”
This Nationals’ season has been defined by its zaniness and inconsistency. A talented lineup is among the worst in the majors. Zimmermann, the team’s most consistent starter all season, turned in a mediocre start against the Mets in Friday afternoon’s game. Ross Ohlendorf, a minor league free agent this winter and perhaps the seventh or eighth guy on the organization’s starting pitching depth chart, pitched seven dominant innings in the night game, keeping the Nats close against Mets ace Matt Harvey.
Storen, who saved 43 games for the team in 2011 and has struggled in his first full season as a setup man, sputtered through two-thirds of the ninth inning of Friday’s opener and was then optioned to Class AAA Syracuse after the rousing finish to the second game. Teammate and close friend Tyler Clippard criticized the organization for its handling of Storen, whose blown save in Game 5 of last season’s National League Division Series may have contributed to the Nationals signing closer Rafael Soriano. This season has been filled with thrilling wins and head-scratching losses, but no day may have featured as much drama and emotion as Friday.
The Nationals’ season-long offensive slump continued throughout the day, in large part because of the pitching of Harvey and starter Jenrry Mejia in the first game. Washington snapped a 13-inning scoreless streak in the fifth inning of the second game with the help of a Mets miscue. Jayson Werth led off the inning with a single, one of his three hits off Harvey, and Ian Desmond drew a five-pitch walk.
After a Steve Lombardozzi strikeout, Wilson Ramos hit a chopper up the middle. Shortstop Justin Turner stopped the ball and, in one motion, flipped to second baseman Daniel Murphy to start a double play. Murphy, however, barehanded the ball and misfired toward first base, hitting Ramos. Werth scored from second on the error as the Nationals tied the game at 1.