Nats go quietly in opening loss to Mets (updated)

The recipe for success for the Nationals the rest of the way this season is going to be one of two things: keep the score close, take a late lead and hope to hold on, or explode for a lot of runs early and win in a blowout.

Neither of those scenarios took place in today's 4-1 doubleheader opening loss to the Mets.

Let's start with keeping the score close. The Nationals did get a gutsy effort from Sean Nolin in his first major league appearance since 2015. But the left-hander served up a three-run home run to Brandon Nimmo in the second inning to put his team in an early hole.

"Good. Started out good, felt good," Nolin said of his first game back in the majors during his postgame Zoom session with reporters. "A lot of good energy. Just tried to do what I can. I know it's a doubleheader today, so I tried to get as deep in the game as I could. But yeah, felt good."

Nimmo would tack on another run to Nolin's line in the fourth with an RBI single to left field to make it 4-0 already more than halfway through the seven-inning affair.

Nolin-Throws-Gray-Sidebar.jpgNolin would exit after three innings plus one batter, allowing eight hits and four runs with no walks and two strikeouts on 51 pitches, 37 for strikes. As good of an outing as the Nationals could have hoped for from the 31-year-old.

"I would say the fastball was definitely the best today," Nolin said. "Fastball, cutter. I was mixing changeup in as well. Not too many curveballs, it didn't seem like the right pitch today. But I definitely mixed all four pretty well throughout my start."

Nolin kept in mind how long it's been since his last big league start, not unaware of the timeline and journey it's been. But he also said nerves didn't really get to him as he took the mound.

"Big league-wise, it was almost six years. I think the end of September of '15 was my last start," Nolin said, recounting how long it's been since he took a big league hill. "I definitely wasn't as nervous this time. I feel like I had a lot of positive, good energy. Just the last couple of days and the early morning probably helped as well, that I wasn't too over-energetic, I guess you could say."

Having friends and family nearby also helped the New York native.

"Just excitement," he said. "To be honest, I wasn't nervous (about) what could happen and stuff. My family and friends were at the game yesterday because I knew I was probably going to pitch at some point. Yeah, it was definitely all positive and good energy, so I was definitely happy with it."

Now for the offense, of which there was very little for the Nationals, although they did avoid being shut out for the ninth time this season.

Mets starter Marcus Stroman held the Nats lineup in check through his first five innings, allowing only two baserunners, at one point retiring 10 straight and striking out seven. The only baserunners up to that point for the Nats were Juan Soto (walk in the first) and Carter Kieboom (single in the second).

Then in the sixth, Washington's offense finally got to the New York right-hander. A leadoff walk to Riley Adams, a pinch-hit single by Andrew Stevenson and an RBI double down the left-field line by Victor Robles finally put the Nationals on the board.

After Soto drew his second walk of the game to load the bases, Josh Bell came to the plate with a chance to either tie the game or give the Nats the lead with one swing. But he hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the last good threat.

It was too little, too late as the Nationals have now lost eight of their last nine games. And the frustration is starting to mount for the boys in the curly W caps, as evident by Andres Machado exchanging words with Pete Alonso after hitting the Mets first baseman with a pitch, and hitting coach Kevin Long's ejection in the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout.

Some good news may be that manager Davey Martinez only needed to use three arms out of the bullpen in this first game, so his bullpen should be well set up for the nightcap.

The Nationals have seven more innings to play before they finally leave New York. And that trip home that feels like it can't come soon enough.

Game 115 lineups: Nats at Mets
Pitching plans laid out for Thursday's doubleheade...
 

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