Nearly one month into this season, the Nationals are firmly establishing themselves as a club that is capable of doing just about anything offensively - and at any point in the game.
They did it again tonight, nearly pulling off their most impressive rally to date, but it may have come at the cost of a key sparkplug to this electric offense: Adam Eaton.
Despite loading the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals were unable to finish the trick in a 7-5 loss to the Mets that was made worse by the sight of Eaton being carried off the field with what appeared to be a serious left leg injury.
Eaton’s infield single played a huge role in the bottom-of-the-ninth rally against Mets closer Jeurys Familia, but it ended with the leadoff man hitting first base awkwardly and falling in a heap to the ground. He eventually was helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his left leg.
The crowd fell hushed but then came back to life as the rally continued. Familia was able to strike out Trea Turner, but then manager Terry Collins summoned lefty Josh Edgin to face Bryce Harper with the bases loaded and one out. With the crowd pleading for another big moment from Harper, Edgin managed to get the slugger to ground back to the mound for a game-ending 1-2-3 double play.
The late dramatics overshadowed some early power displays, with both Travis d’Arnaud and Ryan Zimmerman clubbing two home runs to lead their respective teams.
Early on, the Nationals looked poised to pick up offensively right where they left off in Colorado on Thursday, putting on a fireworks show against the intimidating Jacob deGrom.
Zimmerman got things started by driving yet another high fastball to right-center field, clearing the out-of-town scoreboard to open the inning. It was Zimmerman’s ninth homer in 23 games to start this season, seven of them having been hit to either center or right fields. (And he was only just beginning.)
A few minutes later, Matt Wieters did it himself, driving a deGrom fastball to straightaway center field, off the green batter’s eye. Wieters’ two-run blast gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead, which gave Max Scherzer a chance to settle into a groove and make the most of it.
The Nats ace, though, couldn’t find that groove. He labored through the game’s first four innings, needing 77 pitches to get that far. And he was victimized by a surprising source of power: d’Arnaud.
The No. 8-hitting Mets catcher produced all five of his team’s runs off Scherzer with two big swings. He homered deep to left in the top of the second. Two innings later, he went deep to left-center with a couple of men on base, suddenly providing New York a 5-3 lead.
Scherzer was able to minimize the damage to that and at least complete six innings, but this was his least-effective start of the young season. After failing to allow a home run in his first three outings, he has now served up four of them in 14 innings to the Mets over the last week.
Needing to keep the deficit manageable late, Jacob Turner couldn’t deliver. The right-hander, who was pitching out of the bullpen only four days after a six-inning start at Coors Field, allowed two big insurance runs in the top of the eighth, including one via a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk.
Those runs proved vital a few minutes later when Zimmerman crushed his second homer of the night - his 10th in 23 games to open this season - on the first pitch he saw from Addison Reed in the bottom of the eighth. That blast, also hit to right-center, cut the deficit to 7-5.