The game was scheduled to begin at 1:35, and around that time the Nats faithful were watching baseball at Nats Park, but it was the Braves vs. the Dodgers instead of the Nationals vs. the Mets. For two hours and 26 minutes Nats fans were literally scoreboard watching as the Dodgers and Braves game was shown on the big board at Nats Park. Those fans in the stands cheered on the Dodgers as they took an early lead on the Braves and were happy to see it held up shortly after the Nationals got underway just after 4:00 PM.
The late arriving game did not disappoint the fans as Gio Gonzalez worked around some control issues. Gio pitched 5 2/3 innings, did not have a clean inning, and only struck out three. The real story of the afternoon was the Nats offense or more pointedly the 19 year old Bryce Harper. It has been awhile since Harper has been the most impressive player in the game, but with a triple and homer that glanced off the facing of the second deck he is on this afternoon.
Since the All-Star Break Harper has hit .186/.269/.276 and has struggled to make the adjustments necessary to counter the adjustments pitchers have made on him. With a homer Friday night and two extra base hits today it looks like Harper is starting to make those adjustments. Harper now has 34 extra base hits in his age 19 season which ranks him seventh all time ahead of Cesar Cedeno and Ed Kranepool. The most extra base hits by a 19 year old in a season are the 48 that Mel Ott hit in 1928.
Gio pitched well without his best stuff to escape a number of jams and hold the Mets scoreless until Danny Espinosa got a hold of a Jeremy Hefner pitch that he drove the other way for a two run homer in the second inning. The Mets would have base runners in ever inning against Gio but could not plate one until an RBI groundout by Jason Bay in the sixth inning.
The best inning that Gio pitched on the afternoon was the fourth. Ronny Cedeno led off the inning with a triple to right field. Gio Gonzalez without a strikeout on the afternoon would get Jason Bay to strikeout swinging, Kelly Shoppach to pop out to Werth, and Jeremy Hefner to strikeout swinging. It was an excellent display of pitching and Gio’s ability and understanding with his stuff is one of the reasons he is the first Nats pitcher to ever win 16 games.
With the score 5-2 entering the top of the ninth the Nats would go to their 2012 closer, Tyler Clippard. Looking for save number 27 on the season Clippard would be facing the top of the Mets order. Jordany Valdespin who has hit three of his eight homers against the Nats would start off the innings, and Clippard would make short work of him with a strikeout. He would then get Justin Turner to fly out to centerfield before facing David Wright. The most damage Wright could do would be the make it a two run game. Knowing this Clippard gave him a pitch to hit, and Wright indeed did make hard contact, but not hard enough as it ended up in the glove of Jayson Werth. It was the Nats first clean inning of the day and secured them a 5-2 victory over the Mets.
With the Braves loss and the Nats victory the Nats now hold a 5.0 game lead heading into their showdown series this week. It is the final Nats/Braves series of the season at Nats Park and the first three of six remaining games against the Braves. If the Nats can take one game in the series the Braves would no longer control their own destiny against the Nats. In winning the series against the Mets the Nats continue their dominance over the NL East and have in fact only lost two series in the division all season.