Milone nets first triumph since April 2017 in Nats’ win over Mets

Left-hander Tommy Milone looked the part Wednesday of a starting pitcher that could help the Nationals as they attempt to climb back to the top of the National League East.

In only his second start this season, Milone allowed just one run over seven innings as the Nats subdued the Mets 5-3 for his first win since April 14, 2017 while with the Brewers.

“It’s been kind of a rollercoaster ride, really,” Milone said. “I spent the last couple years trying to get back to my old self and midway through the Triple-A season, I felt like I found it. I’m just trying to roll with it.”

The Nats swept the two-game set from the Mets at Nationals Park and moved back above .500 at 54-53. They are now five games back of the first-place Phillies, who were idle.

Milone-Delivers-White-Front-Side.jpgMilone tossed 97 pitches, 69 for strikes, walking none and striking out nine. The nine strikeouts today were his most since May 1, 2013, when he struck out a career-high 10 for the A’s game against the Angels. He also struck out 10 batters on July 20 and Sept. 9, 2012.

But Milone is not a strikeout pitcher. So what does he think is the deal right now?

“I feel more like my old self than I have in the last few years,” Milone said. “That was something, it’s not a part of my game, but it does come every once in a while. I felt like my old self. It’s a good thing.”

Nationals starters have now combined for 14 innings the last two games against the Mets. Tanner Roark went seven innings in Tuesday’s 25-4 pounding of the Mets.

It is a formula that worked for the Nats in May when they went 20-7, and something manager Davey Martinez has focused on as a goal for his starting rotation recently to try to turn the season around.

“It’s been awesome. When we can get seven innings, we’ve got a pretty good bullpen to hold us down. Tanner was awesome yesterday,” Martinez said. “And Tommy today was fabulous.

“To get seven innings out of him ... at one point, I thought if we get five, great. And he looked good. So I said, hey, leave him out. We got six. I said let him go out there again and see what happens. He was really good. His pitch count, he got up to 97 pitches, and I thought that was good enough.”

Martinez wanted Milone to begin his game plan by staying in the strike zone and moving his fastball around. The left-hander answered the call, retiring the first seven Mets he faced.

“(He was) really good,” Martinez noted. “He came out early and set the precedent throwing strikes. Getting ahead early in the count and his changeup is really, really good.”

Milone struck out six in the first three frames, including striking out the side in the third inning. He punched out José Reyes, Noah Syndergaard and Austin Jackson in that inning, smothering two base hits by the Mets to end the threat.

“Any time you get to come up here and pitch in big league games, it’s meaningful, regardless of where the team is and the situation,” Milone said. “I’m happy I’m up here again and able to pitch in meaningful games.”

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