NEW YORK - The first 14 Nationals hitters that Matt Harvey faced Friday night all took the disappointing walk back to the visitors’ dugout along the third base line. Seven of those 14 were set down on strikes by the Mets flame-throwing right-hander.
At that point, when Harvey was cruising through the first 4 2/3 innings and had yet to allow a baserunner, did the Nats start to feel he had no-hit stuff?
“No. This morning, when I woke up, I thought he had no-hit stuff,” Ian Desmond deadpanned. “He’s always got no-hit stuff. The guy throws 97 (mph) with a breaking ball, cutter, slider, changeup. Everything else you’ve got, he’s got it. You just come out and try to put your best foot forward and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
Tonight, the Nats won, although they didn’t do the majority of their offensive damage with Harvey on the mound. Desmond touched Harvey for a long solo homer in the fifth, breaking up the perfect game and the shutout, and then the Nats were able to come through against the Mets bullpen, scoring five runs in two innings to tie their largest comeback victory of the season.
“I think their bullpen has been decent, but I think you’d rather face anyone right now than (Harvey),” Ryan Zimmerman said. “He’s throwing the ball pretty well.”
That might go for understatement of the year.
Zimmerman has delivered countless clutch hits for the Nats over the years, and he came through again tonight. Up with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth with the Nats trailing by three, Zimmerman roped a three-run double to the gap in left-center, tying the game and sending the Nats dugout into a near mosh pit filled with high fives, back slaps and helmet smacks.
“There’s nobody else on this team, including myself, who I’d want up in that situation more than him,” Desmond said. “He’s a proven big league hitter and he’s made a career at doing damage in situations like that. You don’t get the accolades, the contract, all that stuff, just by being a standup guy. He’s obviously that, but he’s an unbelievable baseball player, a great hitter and our cornerstone, I guess you’d say.”
Added starter Ross Detwiler, who allowed three runs (two earned) over five innings in a no-decision: “When Zim comes up to the plate in a big situation like that, you know he’s got a really good chance at it, probably a better chance than anybody else.”
In that at-bat, Zimmerman took the first pitch he saw from Brandon Lyon, a slider out of the zone for ball one. He then keyed in on the next offering from the right-hander, and crushed a slider up the gap.
“I’m in the driver’s seat right there,” Zimmerman said. “It wasn’t a bad slider he threw the first pitch. It was a decent slider. But once he misses there, I know he doesn’t want to miss again, because then he’s really behind with the bases loaded and nowhere to go. So as a hitter, that’s a spot you want to be in.”
That knock tied the game, and the Nats won it an inning later. Desmond delivered the go-ahead, run-scoring double, Kurt Suzuki added an insurance run with a sac fly, and Drew Storen worked a perfect ninth for his second save.
After trailing by three on the road with Harvey - the National League ERA leader - on the mound, the Nats were able to come through. They haven’t done much of that in these type of circumstances this season, but they battled their way to a nice victory tonight.
“You look at all those circumstances, plus coming off the loss yesterday, it’s easy to just kind of fold up and feel sorry for yourself,” Drew Storen said. “We kept battling. That’s stuff we did last year. That’s what’s fun about it. That’s exciting. Especially on the road here, it’s a big win for us.”
“The beginning of the year, we had no come-from-behind wins, no runs scored late,” said Zimmerman. “And the past couple of weeks, we’ve been getting a lot better at that. That’s the team we were last year. Hopefully, we can continue to do that, because you’re not going to get to the starter every day. Sometimes you’ve got to come from behind. It’s not easy, but good teams do that.”