“That one put me back in the hospital,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
The final month of the season will begin with the Nationals trailing the Cincinnati Reds by 7 1
2 games for the National League’s second wild-card spot. The Nationals had won 14 of 19 games before the Mets, another piece of a favorable schedule, arrived at Nationals Park. The notion of the Nationals making a run at the second wild card and redeeming four disappointing months had become vividly real. It veered closer to fantasy with two losses to the 62-72 Mets, the first a nail-biter and the second a dumpster fire.
“We know that we’re running out of time,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Each game that goes by, it’s getting even more and more [instrumental] for us to win. Tonight, just a terrible game. The type of loss like this came at the wrong time.”
The Nationals walked Wheeler with the bases loaded to force in a run. Anthony Rendon sparked a three-run Mets rally in the eighth against Ryan Mattheus after he patted the ball in his glove and allowed Eric Young Jr. an infield hit. Bryce Harper, after a day of complaints about his effort, hustled into an out trying to stretch a double to a triple with no outs, down by nine runs.
“Little things like that and the dam breaks,” Johnson said.
Haren exited after he had recorded eight outs, and he would be charged with seven runs. Haren’s rotten night owed to misfortune as much as lifeless pitches with poor location. The first three Mets who put a ball in play made outs. Nine of the next 10 recorded hits. Only one of those was not a single, and the two-run double by Omar Quintanilla deflected off Span’s glove.
“It probably wasn’t going to be my day,” Haren said. “I felt great. Stuff was good. I told you guys honestly if I had good or bad stuff that day. My stuff was fine. It wasn’t that. Balls fell in.”
“A thousand little paper cuts,” Johnson said. “I don’t think they hit the ball that hard, but a lot of hits.”
In the second inning, with two on and two outs, Quintanilla ripped a line drive to center field. Span raced to his left and made a diving, backhand effort. The ball deflected off his glove, perhaps an inch separating Haren from the end of the inning. Instead, as Span barrel rolled, both runners churned home to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.