Nats 6, Mets 4
They didn’t gain any ground on the second-place Atlanta Braves. Of course they didn’t. The Nats just continue to win and the Braves do the same – this time a 4-3 extra-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers – and nothing really changes at the top of the National League East standings.
Washington maintained its four-game lead following a win over the New York Mets on Friday – though, truthfully, it could have hoped for more since the Dodgers led 3-1 in the eighth inning before an RBI ground out and then a game-tying single evened the score. In the 11th inning, a pair of two-out singles set up a Juan Francisco walk-off base hit. Since July 21 the Nats are 21-6. Since July 24 Atlanta is 18-5. Guess the two teams will just have to settle things on the field when they meet in a three-game series starting Monday.
Didn’t get a chance to speak with the night’s hero, Michael Morse. He left the clubhouse before speaking to reporters, which is a shame because his grand slam in the fourth inning and the ensuing reaction – a fist pump, a roar and a curtain call for the big Friday night crowd – was one of the great moments of a season full of them.
“Michael Morse had a rough road to hoe being out for a long time,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said. “And then coming back [from a strained lat muscle June 2] – just in the last homestand and then in Houston he started really getting in a more aggressive hitting mode, really hitting off the fastball better. He was more or less defending on the fastball and hitting breaking stuff.”
Morse was much more likely to attack pitcher’s fastballs last season, getting out in front when they tried that pitch. He smoked Johan Santana’s fastball just one pitch after an inside fastball broke his bat. The next one, however, caught too much of the plate and Morse sent it on its way. Johnson called Morse’s first two months of this season – June and July – about 70 percent of what the team saw from him consistently in 2011.
“The whole middle of the lineup is really in a good spot,” Johnson said. “And that’s really why we’ve been scoring a lot of runs.”
Some news and notes: Washington activated shortstop Ian Desmond (left oblique tear) from the 15-day disabled list on Friday. The corresponding roster move was to designate infielder Cesar Izturis for assignment. The team immediately placed him on waivers and hopes to keep the veteran utility man if he clears – though Johnson wasn’t confident that would happen. If another team claims Izturis he is under contract to them.
Desmond said he felt good afterwards – no physical issues and even hit a ball hard to center – but will likely get a day off on Sunday to allow the red-hot Steve Lombardozzi back in the lineup. Johnson told Jayson Werth to take it easy in right field on Friday night and that he’d play center Saturday and get the day off Sunday. Werth is still dealing with a sore ankle.
Johnson was pleased with rookie Bryce Harper’s night. He singled and later hit a two-run homer that proved to be the difference in the game. Harper flashed some signs of life late in the 10-game road trip, especially in San Francisco, but had little to show for it.
“I thought he acquitted himself pretty good on the road, swung the bat pretty good,” Johnson said. “The last game he went 0-for he hit a couple of balls on a line.”
Harper will get a day off on Saturday in part to get Tyler Moore some at-bats and because New York is throwing another left in Jon Niese (9-6, 3.67 ERA). But Johnson admitted it’s not a bad thing to have Harper sit off a positive result – and not a negative night as he did earlier in the week. He could have benched Harper on Friday instead. Harper wasn’t thrilled anyway, jumping on one of Washington’s coaches with “I’m not tired!”
No matter. Johnson did give his rookie a “Great game” afterwards – with the caveat that missing the cutoff man as he did on a wild throw from center field in first inning and letting Daniel Murphy take second base needlessly was “a no-no.”
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