Well, this one was nuts.
Twelve innings, 14 total pitchers used, three blown Mets leads in the eighth inning or later, countless misplayed balls (two in the bottom of the 10th by poor Jordany Valdespin), three wild pitches and the first walk-off hit by a teenager in nearly 24 years.
It felt like it might never end, but it did. A thrilling - and exhausting - contest finally went to the Nationals by a 7-6 score.
“It was a wild game,” manager Davey Johnson said. “They didn’t play very well, and we didn’t play that well, either.”
That’s certainly true, but it doesn’t mean this game between division rivals wasn’t entertaining as all get out.
The Nats held a 3-0 lead after five innings and, with Jordan Zimmermann on cruise control, looked to be in pretty good shape. Then the Mets added two runs in the sixth, chasing Zimmermann after that frame, and got two more in the eighth off the combo of Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen to take a 4-3 lead.
Ian Desmond tied the game with two outs in the eighth with a RBI single, then was needed to bail the Nats out again in the 10th after Henry Rodriguez’s wild pitch brought in a run to put the Mets back on top, 5-4. With one out and runners at the corners in the bottom of the 10th, Desmond smoked a ball at Valdespin, who couldn’t handle it. What could have been the game-ending double play ball instead became an error, which allowed Ryan Zimmerman to score the tying run and extend the game again.
“I feel bad for the kid,” Desmond said. “I actually know him pretty well. He played on my winter ball team. He’s a heck of a player. That was a tough play.”
The Mets grabbed the lead again in the 12th on Scott Hairston’s homer off Ross Detwiler, but for the third time, the Nats battled back. Michael Morse’s second double of the game got it all started, and Desmond then produced a bouncing double down the left field line to tie the game at 6-6.
“It would’ve been very easy for this team, for the hitters to just say, ‘OK, we’ll just go get ‘em tomorrow,’ ” Detwiler said. “But we weathered the storm, we came back out there and fought.”
Back-to-back walks from Jesus Flores and Detwiler followed (yeah, that’s how weird this game was - the pitcher walked to load the bases in the 12th) and “The Kid,” Bryce Harper, delivered the walk-off single to left on an 0-2 pitch.
It was the first walk-off hit by a teenager since Gary Sheffield’s single won it for the Brewers back on Sept. 9, 1988, more than four years before Harper was born. After his game-winner, Harper was mobbed on the field by Zimmerman and the rest of his teammates and got a Gatorade shower from Morse.
“Sharing that moment with Zim, I think, it was pretty unbelievable,” Harper said. “Zim’s an amazing talent. Great player. And he’s been there for me since the beginning, any time I need him. I think he’s just been incredible for me.”
If things weren’t weird enough as is, Johnson admitted after the game that he was considering pinch-hitting Jhonatan Solano for Detwiler (who was the last reliever out of the ‘pen) in the 12th and then having first baseman Adam LaRoche pitch the 13th, if need be. Johnson even told LaRoche of his plan in the dugout, and the veteran left-handed thrower, who pitched in college, was on board.
“He said, ‘Don’t tease me,’ ” Johnson said.
At the end of his four-minute postgame press conference, Johnson cracked a smile. “That game wore me out,” he said.
Still, he had to appreciate the moxie, or stick-to-itiveness or whatever-you-want-to-call-it of his group. They didn’t play a clean game, for sure, but they battled until the end.
“It’s unbelievable,” Johnson said. “We’ve come back a lot of times, and we’ve been in close ballgames and seemed to get the big hit, but we never kind of bust it open. I think they like aggravating me. But it’s a great group of guys, and they never say die. Never say die.”
“There’s been so many times throughout the year for us to crack and we haven’t,” Desmond said. “I think everyone in here believes, and we’re all in. We’re sold into what Davey’s saying and how he’s managing. There’s no second guessing. We all believe in each other.”