Double-play grounder ends best chance against Mets
NEW YORK -- Jayson Werth was just overanxious. If only he had kept the bat on his shoulder.
With the Washington Nationals trying to build a rally in the eighth inning, Werth swung at a 3-0 sinker and grounded into a costly double play that helped the New York Mets hang on for a 2-0 victory Sunday.
"It's probably one of the dumber things I've done on the field for a while. I feel like I pretty much blew it," he said.
John Buck hit his seventh home run of the season, Dillon Gee earned his first win and New York handed the defending NL East champions their third shutout in 18 games. The Mets took two of three from Washington for their first series victory against the Nationals since September 2011.
Washington appeared poised to break through at the plate when pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi singled leading off the eighth and Denard Span walked. But with the meat of the order coming up, Werth grounded into a 6-4-3 double play against 31-year-old rookie Scott Rice.
"I was looking to pull something. I even moved up on the plate. He threw like seven straight balls in a row, felt like he was going to groove one there," Werth said. "I felt like I let the guys down. That's the bottom line.
"I got caught up in the moment. Looking back, I was trying to do too much. I was trying to win the game right there. The situation got the best of me," he added.
Buck and Mets manager Terry Collins acknowledged they were surprised to see Werth swing. David Wright even said the Mets "got lucky on that one."
Rice, however, had an inkling that Werth might be hacking.
"Jayson Werth gets paid a lot of money to drive in runs," Rice said. "I was able to make a pitch when it mattered and get out of it."
The left-hander then struck out Bryce Harper, who homered twice and doubled Saturday in Washington's 7-6 victory.
Anthony Rendon went hitless with two strikeouts and committed an error in his major league debut for the Nats. Selected sixth overall in the 2011 amateur draft out of Rice, he was called up from Double-A Harrisburg to fill in for injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Before the game, Rendon said his parents tried to fly in from Houston for his debut -- but airline trouble left them without seats even though they thought they had booked their reservation.
"It's pretty terrible," he said.
Still, he took the news in stride.
Rendon said his folks plan to be at Nationals Park to see him play Monday night against St. Louis -- and he told them not to worry about missing his first major league game.
"It's not that big a deal," he said.
Following a pair of poor starts, Gee (1-3) used an effective change-up to toss three-hit ball over 52Ú3 innings. It was his first win since his 2012 season was cut short in July by surgery to replace a damaged artery in his right shoulder.
"He mixed speeds really well," Harper said.
New York also got a strong effort from its struggling bullpen, which entered with the highest ERA in the majors at 5.47. Buck hit a drive into the second deck at Citi Field and Mike Baxter added a sacrifice fly as the Mets ran up Jordan Zimmermann's pitch count enough to deal the right-hander his first loss of the year.
The Mets, 4-14 against the Nats last season, have won their first three series at home for the first time since 2006.
"They're a great team, and to come out and take two of three from them is big," Gee said.
Slick defensive plays by Buck behind the plate and Ruben Tejada at shortstop gave the Mets a boost. Meanwhile, Washington committed three errors -- though none proved costly.
"We're just a little out of sync right now," manager Davey Johnson said.
Shut down by budding ace Matt Harvey in the series opener Friday night, the Nationals had no answer for Gee and the four relievers who followed him.
Gee struck out six and did not walk a batter until issuing three free passes in the sixth. But he got some help when Buck made a tough, backhand pickup of a breaking ball in the dirt and threw out Span trying to scamper to second.
"Eyes were shut," Buck said with a grin.
LaTroy Hawkins threw a called third strike past Ian Desmond with two on to end the inning.
Brandon Lyon worked a 1-2-3 seventh, and Bobby Parnell fanned two in a perfect ninth for his second save.
"It's going to be totally fine. It's a long season, and we have a great team," Harper said.
Buck launched a drive to left-center leading off the second, giving him 22 RBIs in his first three weeks with the Mets after arriving in the trade that sent NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto.
A leadoff walk to Wright in the fourth and Ike Davis' hit-and-run single set up Baxter's sacrifice fly.
Coming off a complete game at Miami, Zimmermann (3-1) threw 96 pitches in five innings. He allowed two hits and three walks.
"I fell behind guys, didn't throw a lot of first-pitch strikes," Zimmermann said. "Without first-pitch strikes, you have to work a little harder."