NEW YORK - The ball flew out of Citi Field tonight like it never had before in the eight-year history of this ballpark. The Nationals and Mets kept trading bombs, each lineup homering four times a piece.
In the end, it was the lone home run of the game that came with runners on base that proved the difference: Wilmer Flores’ three-run shot in the bottom of the fifth carried the Mets to a wild 9-7 victory on a muggy July evening in Queens.
The Nationals got solo homers from Bryce Harper, Clint Robinson, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy, but that wasn’t enough to overcome some shaky pitching performances from nearly every guy manager Dusty Baker sent to the mound.
The Mets scored at least one run in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, knocking out rookie Lucas Giolito and then keeping the pressure on the Nats bullpen. In the process, they captured the first of this four-game series to close out the season’s first half, drawing to within three games in the National League East.
By the time this one ended, the second start of Giolito’s career was but a mere footnote. It began in promising fashion, with the 21-year-old right-hander battling some command issues to post a pair of zeroes on the scoreboard. But then came a nightmarish top of the fourth for Giolito, who served up a pair of homers, a pair of doubles and a walk while also committing a balk, all of this while sweating through his gray jersey on this humid night.
By the time Baker emerged from the dugout to take the ball from him, Giolito looked completely out of gas, having thrown 90 pitches in only 3 2/3 innings during what had become a disappointing performance.
Fortunately for Giolito, the Nationals lineup was causing all kinds of havoc on his counterpart, Bartolo Colon. The 43-year-old hurler was roughed up for six runs in 4 2/3 innings, including three homers surrendered in a four-batter stretch during the top of the fourth.
The domino effect of all that: With both starters knocked out early, both managers were forced to ask a lot from their respective bullpens. That proved a difficult challenge.
Oliver Perez was first man up for the Nationals, and though the veteran lefty performed at the plate (he went 2-for-2 with a double), he served up the three-run homer to Flores that gave the Mets the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth.
The Nationals tried to rally against the New York bullpen but managed only Murphy’s solo homer in the seventh (his 15th of the season, establishing a new career high).