Mets stop skid in finale, beat Nationals 1-0 behind deGrom
NEW YORK (AP) Prep week is over for the New York Mets. Now, it’s on to the playoffs.
Jacob deGrom looked especially sharp in his abbreviated tuneup, and the NL East champions finally scored on Curtis Granderson’s eighth-inning homer to beat the Washington Nationals 1-0 in their regular-season finale Sunday.
”I just think it’s a great way to finish,” manager Terry Collins said. ”I think we’re ready.”
One day after Washington ace Max Scherzer pitched a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts to complete a doubleheader sweep, the Mets (90-72) made a run at a combined no-hitter of their own. They reached 90 wins for the first time in nine years and stopped a five-game losing streak that cost them home-field advantage in the Division Series against the Dodgers.
Next up, deGrom starts Game 1 in the best-of-five matchup Friday at Los Angeles.
”This is what we play for,” deGrom said. ”I’m really looking forward to this.”
Seven pitchers combined to hold Washington to two hits – the first was Clint Robinson’s two-out single in the seventh inning off reliever Jonathon Niese.
Bryce Harper hustled for a two-out double in the ninth to finish 1 for 4, but that wasn’t enough to beat out Miami speedster Dee Gordon for the National League batting crown.
Gordon went 3 for 4 in Philadelphia and finished with a .333 average to Harper’s .330. The front-runner for NL MVP, Harper began the day ahead by the slimmest of margins – .330754 to .330606.
The slugger ended his sensational season with 42 homers and 99 RBIs.
”I probably could’ve took the last two weeks off and hit .340 and do what I did,” Harper said. ”But Dee Gordon is such a great hitter, and he had over 200 hits, and I tip my cap to him because he’s done such a great job all year long.”
Jeurys Familia retired Jayson Werth on a fly to center for his 43rd save, equaling the franchise record set by Armando Benitez in 2001.
With the Mets gearing up for their first postseason appearance since 2006, deGrom was pulled after throwing 72 pitches in four innings. He struck out four of his first five batters and finished with seven strikeouts.
”I feel ready,” deGrom said. ”I worked on some things and my changeup’s definitely getting better, so today was a big step for me.”
Bartolo Colon and Logan Verrett each tossed a hitless inning of relief before Niese entered in the seventh. With two outs, Robinson sent a sharp two-hopper up the middle that went between Niese’s legs and caromed off the shin of shortstop Ruben Tejada as he tried to make a sliding stop.
The ball ricocheted into right field, and official scorer Jordan Sprechman ruled it a hit almost immediately.
Tyler Clippard (4-1) struck out two in a perfect eighth. Moments later, Granderson launched a drive to center off Blake Treinen (2-5) for his 26th homer of the season and third hit of the game.
It snapped New York’s scoreless stretch of 18 innings and marked the team’s second run in a span of 43 innings.
Following the final out, Mets players came back onto the field for a victory lap and saluted a crowd of 41,631 that pushed New York’s total attendance to 2,569,753 – highest since the club drew more than 3 million during Citi Field’s inaugural season in 2009.
With the NL East championship banner flying above the ballpark and flapping in the wind, captain David Wright grabbed a microphone and thanked fans for their support.
”Let’s go beat LA!” he said.
For the second-place Nationals (83-79), a World Series favorite way back in spring training, it was a fitting end to a tumultuous and disappointing season.
”We thought we had one of the best teams in all of baseball,” Harper said.
Key players such as pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond can become free agents; a choked-up Desmond shed tears in the clubhouse.
It might have been the last game with Washington for embattled manager Matt Williams, too. Amid speculation Williams is likely to be fired, general manager Mike Rizzo said a decision will be made soon.
”We’re all disappointed in the outcome,” Williams said. ”It provides fuel, it provides fire to everybody to understand where we’re at now and to look forward to getting back to where we want to be.”
Nationals: Harper was back in the lineup after sitting out the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He was hit by a fastball from hard-throwing Noah Syndergaard in the opener before connecting for a home run his next time up. But after the game, he was heavily bandaged in ice.
Mets: Collins didn’t sound optimistic about Juan Uribe being available for the Division Series, though the reserve infielder has not been ruled out. Uribe hasn’t played since Sept. 25 because of a chest cartilage injury.
Nationals: After learning Williams’ fate, the Nationals look ahead to their 2016 season opener April 4 at Atlanta.
Mets: Two workouts are planned this week at Citi Field before the Mets travel to Los Angeles on Wednesday. They will return home for Game 3 of the NLDS on Oct. 12, with Matt Harvey scheduled to start.