NEW YORK - Over the seven innings that Mets ace Matt Harvey was in tonight’s game, the Nationals managed one run on three hits. Harvey overpowered the Nats, as he’d overpowered pretty much every other team he’s faced this season.
But the Nats kept the game close, and trailed 4-1 when the mediocre Mets bullpen was called upon in the eighth. Then they pounced.
Ryan Zimmerman tied the game with a bases-loaded, two-out double in the eighth, and Ian Desmond smacked a go-ahead double in the ninth, turning that three-run deficit into a dramatic 6-4 comeback win.
“It was a big win. That might even have been our biggest win of the year right there,” manager Davey Johnson said. “The guys battled. (Mets manager Terry Collins is) making every move he can to try and get the edge, and guys got key base hits. That’s what we’re capable of. Zim got the big blow and I thought the at-bat that Desi put on there, that was outstanding. And that’s what we’re capable of doing. It was a big, uplifting win. ...
“I know the guys were fired up. It was a big, big win. And fortunately, I didn’t have to beat up my bullpen. Just used a few guys, so we’re in good shape for tomorrow.”
Harvey struck out 11 tonight, but the Nats were able to slowly get his pitch count up. It stood at 109 after seven innings, and Collins had no choice but to pull him. He then went to five different relievers, four of whom allowed at least one run.
“All we wanted to do was just stay close,” Johnson said. “(Harvey) pitched a heck of a game. I knew that he was at the end of his rope and I was hoping we could tack something on him, but he’s a heck of a pitcher.
“He wasn’t giving us much. I know his history is they usually take him out around 100 pitches, so there was a little room in there to get him. And the guys did. So it was big.”
In addition to his go-ahead double in the ninth, Desmond had a solo homer in the fifth that broke up Harvey’s perfect game and knotted the score. It was Desmond’s 14th homer of the season, and it was a loud one. He launched a Harvey curveball off the faÃ§ade on the second deck in left.
“His tendency sometimes is he tries to do too much,” Johnson said of Desmond. “And when everybody’s not doing a whole lot, he tries to do too much. Chases bad pitches. But when he stays within himself, ... he hit the heck out of that ball. That first home run, that was a bomb. And that was off a breaking ball.
“But I think just the way we finished that game, that was the key. Because everybody had good at-bats. Zim was outstanding. I like seeing him rifle those balls through the infield. That’s more what I’m used to seeing.”
With Rafael Soriano unavailable tonight after having worked three straight days, Johnson turned to Storen in the ninth inning, and the right-hander delivered a 1-2-3 frame for his second save of the season. The clean outing dropped Storen’s ERA to 3.86, the lowest it’s been since April 19.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Storen,” Johnson said. “There was a case, why did I go the way I did? The left-handers were coming up, I wanted (Tyler Clippard in the eighth). He held them. I kind of like to get him in the game because we usually score some runs when he’s in there. And it was kinda just the way I wanted it to work out, and it did.”
Johnson announced after the game that the Nats will option first baseman Chris Marrero to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Taylor Jordan, who will start tomorrow afternoon in his major league debut. Marrero went 2-for-16 with an RBI in eight games with the Nats since being called up a few weeks ago.
“It’s a tough situation for a young player who’s having a heck of a year and have to take his spot for the roster,” Johnson said. “Told him (to) keep his head up and keep having a great year.”