Homers aplenty in Giolito-Colon matchup (Nats lose 9-7)

NEW YORK - When Lucas Giolito was born unto this world on July 14, 1994, Bartolo Colon already was pitching in rookie ball for the Cleveland Indians. Little could either have known then that nearly 22 years later they’d be taking the mound opposite each other in the same big league game.

You’d be hard-pressed to find two major league pitchers with more contrasting styles right now than the 43-year-old Colon and the 21-year-old Giolito. That, along with the massive age disparity, makes tonight’s matchup at Citi Field a compelling one.

Four innings down, the two hurlers share one thing in common: the propensity to give up home runs.

Anthony-Rendon-bat-red.jpgColon has been done in by a trio of homers, hit in rapid succession in the top of the fourth by Bryce Harper, Clint Robinson and Anthony Rendon. Giolito, meanwhile, gave up two bombs himself in the bottom of the inning to Travis d’Arnaud and Jose Reyes, then couldn’t even complete the inning after two doubles and a walk left the game tied 4-4.

Harper smoked a 2-2 fastball from Colon over the center field fence for his second homer in as many days and 19th of the season. Two batters later, Robinson (filling in at first base for a sore Ryan Zimmerman) took a 1-0 fastball the other way, clearing the wall in left field for his fourth homer of the year. And immediately after that, Rendon (after fouling off three straight pitches) lofted a 2-2 fastball from Colon just over the fence in left, leaving the crowd at Citi Field murmuring with displeasure.

The Nationals got their first run right out of the chute when Ben Revere led off the game with a triple into the right field corner and then scored on Daniel Murphy’s sharp single past second baseman Neil Walker.

That allowed Giolito to take the mound with a 1-0 lead already at his disposal. The 6-foot-6 right-hander, who was making both his second career start and second start against the Mets, wasn’t particularly sharp early on, missing up in the zone with his fastball, leading to four walks.

The first run he allowed might have been preventable had his defense helped him out. With one on and two out in the bottom of the third, shortstop Danny Espinosa hesitated a bit on Walker’s grounder up the middle, unsure whether to try to get the lead runner or throw to first. He chose the latter, but it was too late, extending the inning. That allowed James Loney to send a two-out single to left, with Yoenis Cespedes scoring ahead of Jayson Werth’s throw to the plate.

The real damage came in the fourth, though. With Giolito sweating right through his gray jersey on a muggy night, he served up homers to both d’Arnaud and Reyes in quick order. Back-to-back doubles by Curtis Granderson and Cespedes (with a balk thrown in for good measure) followed, turning the Nationals’ brief 4-1 lead into a tie game and ending Giolito’s night sooner than he wished.

He was pulled after walking Walker, his pitch count already at 90.

Update: This has turned into possibly the wildest game of the Nats season, and they’ve still only played five innings. The Mets now lead 7-6. This happened after the Nats took a 6-4 lead in the top of the fifth after Dusty Baker successfully challenged a call, overturning what would have been the third out of the inning and thus allowing Oliver Perez (who singled off Bartolo Colon) to score the go-ahead run. Feel free to stop and re-read that last sentence, because there’s a whole lot to digest in there. Anyways, whatever positive vibes the Nats had after taking the lead immediately vanished when Perez gave three runs back in the bottom of the fifth, all of them coming around to score on Wilmer Flores’ towering home run into the second deck in left field. There’s a whole lotta baseball left to be played here tonight, folks. Who knows what drama still awaits us.

Update II: And indeed there has been more drama. It’s now 9-7 Mets after seven. Daniel Murphy homered for the Nats, giving him a new career-high with 15 on the season. But Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the Mets, who also got an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. Only one of the last nine half-innings in this game ended with a zero getting posted on the scoreboard. It’s been that kind of night.

Update III: It’s over. The Nats couldn’t do anything else against the Mets bullpen and so they have lost the opener of this series, 9-7. They tried to get something going in the ninth against Jeurys Familia, but Jayson Werth was called for oversliding second base, helping kill the rally. Their lead in the NL East is down to three games.

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