The Washington Nationals’ (22-19) inability to score runs in the first inning has earned them the reputation of being the “comeback Nats.” But during Friday’s game against the New York Mets (19-22), no comeback was needed, thanks to Jayson Werth.
In the top of the ninth inning, Rafael Soriano put on another adrenaline-filled performance en route to his ninth save of the season. After two long fly-ball outs, and a moronic on-field interruption, Soriano walked Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. to bring the tying run to the plate. Daniel Murphy did his best to tie the game with one swing, but Werth would have none of it. He leapt in front of the bullpen wall and snatched the liner from the air to save the win for the Nationals.
“I probably shoul’ve untucked my shirt,” Werth said.
The Nats made their claim on that win starting in the first inning, a rarity for them.
Washington has scored 18 runs in the first inning over 40 games this season. That’s an average of 0.45 first-inning runs per game. In comparison, they have scored 30 runs in the eighth inning, their highest per-inning total. No wonder they have such a reputation.
But they broke out of the habit on Friday by getting to the Mets’ best starter, Jonathan Niese, early. In the first inning, they scored three runs on RBIs from Werth, Wilson Ramos and Tyler Moore, and they kept the line moving until Ian Desmond was caught stealing in a wacky run down between third base and home plate.
The hitters were back at it in the third inning when they scored two more runs on a single from Ramos, an RBI-double from Scott Hairston and an RBI-single by Moore.
The early support gave Tanner Roark a cushion to cruise through the first four innings of his start when he held the Mets scoreless and faced just two batters over the minimum.
In the fifth, Roark gave up a single and a double with no outs to set the table for Young to hit a two-run double over Hairston’s head in left field to bring home the Mets’ only two runs of the game.
Manager Matt Williams thought Roark threw well for most of this start, but started getting a bit erratic with his command in the fifth inning, he said, leading to the runs and his removal from the game after five complete innings and 87 pitches.
Ross Detwiler relieved Roark in another rare situation, considering the score of the game and that he has not been used in high-pressure situations. He pitched a scoreless inning and gave up only one hit. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard followed with scoreless innings of their own.
The Nationals’ offense had 11 hits and went 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position. With the strong offensive performance against one of the Mets’ most dominant starters – Niese had a 2.17 ERA before Friday – the Nats were able to set the right tone in the series opener as they move to face less successful starters Bartolo Colon (5.84 ERA) and Zack Wheeler (4.53 ERA) in the remainder of the series.