Reliving last night’s thriller

This is just one man’s take, but I feel like last night’s game was about as much fun as a baseball game can be in the middle of July.

Some might prefer a 1-0 pitchers’ duel. I’ll take a back-and-forth, standing ovation-inducing, walk-off-ending 5-4 contest between two division rivals.

Actually, if you think about it, last night’s game had it all.

If you’re the pitchers’ duel type, that’s what you got for seven innings as Ross Detwiler and Jon Niese befuddled hitters and tossed up zeros. If you’re more into the theatrics, you got that, as well, as two division opponents combined to blow three saves over the span of two frames and saw seven runs cross the plate in the ninth and 10th innings.

It was pulse-pounding, it was frustrating. It was competitive, well-played baseball.

“It was great. That’s why you come to the ballpark,” rookie Tyler Moore said. “The first eight innings were kind of boring and then the last three were unbelievable.”

Harper strides to second wide.jpgAfter giving up the lead in the top of the ninth, the Nationals found themselves down to their last strike in the bottom half. Their last chance was Danny Espinosa, hitting from the left side of the plate against flame-throwing righty Bobby Parnell.

Despite being able to hit the high 90s with his fastball, Parnell fell in love with his curve in the ninth, throwing eight straight breaking balls at one point. Five of those came in to Espinosa, who worked the count to 2-2.

Parnell then finally delivered a heater at 99 mph down in the zone. Espinosa wasn’t thrown off by the dramatic change of speeds and smacked the pitch right back up the middle to tie the game.

“You’re always ready for a guy who throws that hard for his fastball,” Espinosa said. “But he has good off-speed as well. You just try to stay with your approach and get a pitch you can handle and take your best swing.”

The Mets took the lead back in the top of the 10th inning, leaving the Nationals just two outs from defeat in the bottom-half. Then Bryce Harper demolished a baseball over the head of Scott Hairston in right, tying the game and leaving Harper on third representing the winning run.

“That was a rocket,” manager Davey Johnson said.

Harper was forced out at home three batters later, but Pedro Beato’s wild pitch then brought in Ryan Zimmerman with the winning run. Strangely enough, Zimmerman also was the one who scored the game-winning run in the Nationals’ other win this season that came on a walk-off wild pitch, back in the home opener.

Last night’s win wasn’t just entertaining, it was also important. With the Braves losing last night, the Nats opened up a 3 1/2-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East and created even more separation between themselves and the Mets, who are now seven games out of first and eight games back in the loss column.

It could have been a gut-punching loss to a division foe. Instead, it was a dramatic victory which again showed the comeback spirit of this team.

“That’s what first-place teams do,” Detwiler said. “They find a way to win every game possible.”

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