Wood drives in winning run as Nats beat Mets (updated)

While James Wood’s first two major league games came with all of the deserved hype, the Nationals’ top prospect had yet to really deliver a signature moment.

Sure, he reached base in high-leverage moments in both games, but he hadn't yet scored his first major league run nor recorded his first major league RBI.

So maybe the third time would be the charm for Wood, who was promoted to the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America earlier today. And sure enough, his first big league moment came tonight in leading the Nationals to victory.

Wood drove in the game-winning run with an RBI single in the seventh inning of the Nats’ 7-5 win over the Mets, their first against their division rival this season.

After rallying from a 5-0 deficit to make it a one-run game entering the sixth inning, the Nationals offense put Wood in position to be the hero.

CJ Abrams drew a two-out walk against left-hander Jake Diekman, who was just brought into the game by Mets manager Carlos Mendoza to face the left-handed-hitting shortstop. Abrams battled back from an 0-2 count to win the 10-pitch battle and keep the inning alive.

Lane Thomas followed with an RBI double off the base of the left-field wall, with Abrams hustling to score all the way from first to tie the game 5-5.

Up stepped Wood for his fourth plate appearance of the night. And he came up clutch to score Thomas for his first RBI and a 6-5 lead, sending the crowd of 32,391 into a frenzy for the new face of the franchise.

“I was kind of just feeding off the energy," Wood said after the game. "Guys were putting together really good at-bats. Lane hitting the double, CJ with a big walk. And yeah, just tried to fight up there and put up a good at-bat.”

Wood swung and missed at two sweepers in the dirt from Diekman to start the at-bat before calling timeout. He then composed himself, fouled off a slider and hit another low sweeper back up the middle for what would be the game-winning moment.

“Making a little adjustment," Wood said. "Obviously not completely changing your approach. With each one you see, you kind of have a better idea of how to try and attack it.

“Sometimes the clock will sneak up on you, so I just give myself a little bit more time.”

“He had a nice two-strike approach, which is great," said manager Davey Martinez. "And he stayed in the middle of the field, which is what we preach all the time with two strikes. So like I said, he's gonna show the power. He is. But for him to come up here and do what he's doing – taking his walks and just getting on base for us and like tonight driving in a big run for us – is huge.”

Wood would also easily steal his first bag before inning’s end to complete an impressive sequence by the sport’s top prospect.

Luis García Jr. then provided an insurance run with a home run in the eighth, his second of the night for his second multi-homer game of his career (Aug. 4, 2021 against the Phillies).

“He's been good," Martinez said of Wood. "Like I said, he's working good at-bats. The stolen base was awesome. He's been really, really good. But the whole team battled today. We're down and we stayed with it. But home runs by Luis. He struck the ball really well. But all the guys were battling up there, so it was a good win for us.”

The way the Nats offense typically has performed this season, the early five-run lead might have been enough to bury them right then and there. But as they have typically done this year, the boys battled back.

Entering the fifth inning, the Nats’ only two baserunners off Christian Scott were Wood via a walk in the first and Jesse Winker via a double in the fourth. Both were stranded by the Mets’ rookie right-hander.

García became the third baserunner with a leadoff walk in the fifth and eventually came around to score on Ildemaro Vargas’ RBI single. But despite getting the free pass and two hits to start the inning, the Nats only managed the one run on the board.

But Wood would be in the center of the action as the Nats got back in this game in the sixth. His first single of the night – 109.6 mph off his bat – started the rally. Winker followed with another single as Wood flew to third base. And with two outs two batters later, García hit his eighth home run of the season to make it a 5-4 game and give the Nats a fighting chance.

“I felt very good," García said of his at-bats tonight, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "I felt myself with power today. I felt very good.”

Although the Nats had yet to beat the Mets this season, they had received impressive starting pitching performances. The concern surrounding the ballclub lately revolved more around a lack of offensive production and late-inning blowups by the bullpen.

Mitchell Parker came into tonight’s start looking to continue that trend by the rotation while hoping to get some support from the rest of the squad to finally defeat their division rivals.

But the rookie southpaw was plagued by the longball for really the first time in his major league career.

Parker’s outing started sharp. He retired the first six batters in order with four strikeouts, seemingly having the Mets completely guessing at whatever he threw at them. But the guessing stopped once he started leaving pitches over the plate for them to hit.

Tyrone Taylor hit Parker’s second pitch of the third inning – a fastball middle-in – over the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead, which was confirmed by review.

Then Parker gave up a double and two-run homer in both the fourth and fifth innings to put the Nats in a 5-0 hole. ​​Mark Vientos tagged him for the second longball on a fastball right over the plate and Francisco Lindor golfed a low curveball for the third of the evening.

“I'm not upset with the pitches," Parker said. "Again, it sucks. Not in the game plan, but it's going to happen. Just have to limit the damage, keep going out there and give us the best chance.”

Parker entered tonight having surrendered only eight home runs in 78 ⅔ innings over his first 14 major league starts. His 0.9 home-run-per-nine-innings rate matched the rate he posted in 28 appearances (26 starts) between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester last year. So giving up homers has not been a part of his scouting report.

However, tonight marked the first time he gave up three homers in a single outing as a major leaguer, raising his total on the year to 11, and only the second time as a professional, with the other time coming in 2021 with Single-A Fredericksburg.

“Not how we wrote it up in the book pregame," he said. "But got a job done. I was able to keep the game relatively close. And at the end of the day, we won so can't really be upset about it.”

But unlike the previous two nights, Parker had some help coming.

“I didn't want to go to extra innings, let's put it that way," said Davey Martinez.

Jacob Barnes pitched a perfect seventh. Robert Garcia recorded two outs before Hunter Harvey redeemed himself by closing out a scoreless eighth. And Kyle Finnegan recorded his 23rd save in the ninth.

“Let me say something about Harvey, too," the manager said. "The last two nights he struggled a little bit. I wanted to kind of give him a little lesser (inning). Even though he had to face a really good hitter. But he came in and did the job for us. That was the big inning for us to hold the lead right there.”

And of course, the highlights from Wood and García put a stamp on it all.

“It was expected," García said of Wood's heroics. "We had confidence in him. We knew he was gonna drive that run in. It didn't matter what the situation was. We knew he was gonna give it a good approach. And it seemed like he's got some loose hips, so he moved it very well.”

Of all the firsts he experienced tonight and through his first three major league games, what will stand out to Wood the most?

“The win, easily,” he said.

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