First rain delayed the start of Wednesday night’s game for the Washington Nationals. Then the visiting New York Mets put a hold on the Nationals’ aspirations for victory, rallying for four runs in the ninth for a 6-3 triumph in which Washington wasted the most efficient outing of the season from starter Tom Gorzelanny.
The culprit in this case was reliever Sean Burnett, who started the top of the ninth with a 3-2 lead before a crowd of 13,568 at Nationals Park after Tyler Clippard had replaced Gorzelanny in the seventh.
In winning their sixth in a row, the Mets got to Burnett right away, with Jason Bay, Ike Davis and Willie Harris, a late-game replacement, collecting consecutive singles.
Pinch hitter Chin-Lung Hu then sent a sacrifice fly to right that scored Bay for the tying run and allowed Davis and Harris to advance. Josh Thole’s infield grounder to short was enough to score Davis for a 4-3 lead, and with Harris on third, Burnett intentionally walked Jose Reyes.
Daniel Murphy plated both runners by lining a double to right, and when Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez got Rick Ankiel to ground out for his sixth save, the Nationals (10-13) had lost for the sixth time in seven games and dropped their third in a row.
“It could have went either way there,” Burnett said of the first two hitters he faced. “Could have been two outs and nobody on, or two guys on and nobody out, so unfortunately the luck didn’t go my way tonight, and it kind of snowballed, and I just couldn’t get it under control.”
Gorelanny, though, was in command of the Mets (11-13) and put his side in position to win by allowing one run and five hits over 61 / 3 innings.
He needed just 85 pitches to help stake Washington to a 2-1 lead by the time he departed in favor of Clippard, who yielded the tying run in the top of the eighth on Murphy’s solo homer.
But Adam LaRoche led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and advanced to third on a passed ball. Brian Bixler came in to pinch run, and Wilson Ramos drove him home with a sacrifice fly to center for his fourth RBI in two games and a 3-2 advantage before it all unraveled.
Inclement weather caused a 45-minute delay before the first pitch and interfered with the Nationals’ plans for the third time in six days. On Monday in Pittsburgh, there was a 21-minute rain delay during the fourth inning of a game that was the makeup of a postponement on Friday.
Then players had to come back to the District in the wee hours and be at Nationals Park early the next afternoon for the start of their series against the Mets, who went ahead first again on Wednesday, 1-0, in a third inning that began with Mike Nickeas’s bloop infield single out of the reach of diving second baseman Danny Espinosa.
Pitcher R.A. Dickey moved Nickeas to second with a sacrifice, and Reyes grounded out to second, advancing the runner the third.
One batter later, Justin Turner lined a fastball to right for a hit that scored Nickeas.
The Nationals tied it in the fourth in what initially had the makings of a more lucrative inning. It began with Jayson Werth’s liner to left-center for a single, and after LaRoche flew out to center, Ramos singled to right.
With runners on the corners, Michael Morse delivered a fly to right that was deep enough to score Werth without a play at the plate.
But Washington stranded its third runner of the game to that point when Jerry Hairston grounded to short to end the inning.
The Nationals, who left eight runners on base in all, got the leadoff hitter on to start the fifth courtesy of Alex Cora’s slap single to left.
Gorzelanny executed a textbook sacrifice to move Cora to second, and following Espinosa’s groundout, Ankiel shrugged off the rain that had begun falling shortly beforehand to connect on a double to left.
Washington’s lead stayed at 2-1, however, when Werth grounded out to first for the third out. Ankiel was left at third as well after moving there because of a high pitch that got past catcher Nickeas, who was charged a passed ball.
Murphy’s homer to tie it at 2 came immediately following a controversial play at third involving Reyes, who doubled off Clippard and tried to stretch it into a triple as the ball rolled to the wall in left-center.
Ankiel eventually retrieved the ball and threw to third baseman Hairston as Reyes slid head first, making sure to keep his hand on the bag, or at least it seemed according to television replays. Third base umpire Marvin Hudson didn’t see it that way, though, and called Reyes out on Hairston’s tag.
“Every loss is tough,” said Hairston, who revealed he thought Reyes’s hand may have come off the bag for a instant. “But hey, you’ve got to bounce back in this game. Game’s over.
“Just got to move forward and get ready for tomorrow.”