Harper homers as Nats hurt Mets’ home-field hopes for NLDS
Bryce Harper got even with the New York Mets in a hurry.
Drilled by a pitch in his previous at-bat, the MVP candidate dented the Mets’ playoff position by hitting a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning that gave the Washington Nationals a 3-1 win Saturday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
The Mets’ fourth straight loss dropped them one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for home-field advantage in their NL Division Series matchup next week. Each team has two games left.
"Win or lose is not the issue right now. We’re going to party on here," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We’re playing Friday. I don’t care where it’s at."
"But we’ve got to get the edge back. We got to get the focus back, the concentration back. Those are the things that when you clinch early, you can lose. And those are the things we’ve got to regain," he said.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard struck out 10, giving up just two hits in seven innings in what amounted to a playoff tuneup on a misty, chilly day. In the sixth, his fastball nailed Harper on the inside of the left shin.
"Like he threw it through me," said Harper, who was bandaged in ice after the game.
The next time up, Harper connected for his 42nd homer, tying Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the NL lead. The long, two-run drive to right field with two outs lifted Harper’s count to 99 RBI.
Harper said he hoped to play in the second game, but wasn’t listed in the starting lineup. Matt Harvey was set to start the nightcap for the Mets — Harper is 0 for 20 with seven strikeouts against the ace.
What about maybe getting his 100th RBI against a pitcher who’s given him trouble?
"It’d be nice, right?" Harper said.
Harper homered off Addison Reed (3-3). Acquired late in the season from Arizona, Reed hadn’t allowed a run in his first 15 appearances for the Mets.
The go-ahead drive came right after second baseman Daniel Murphy bobbled a potential double-play grounder.
Rafael Martin (2-0) got one out as the Nationals ended a six-game skid against the Mets. Felipe Rivero worked the ninth for his second save.
The doubleheader was forced by a rainout Friday night. The Mets fell to 5-6 in their last 11.
"The one thing I’ve seen this team do all year long is they’ll lose it and right out of the clear blue, they’ll snap out of it," Collins said.
Mets star David Wright struck out three times. When he fanned to finish the fifth, he flung his bat and slammed down his helmet so hard that it nearly bounced to the dugout.
Gio Gonzalez shut out the Mets on three hits for six innings. New York broke its 23-inning scoreless streak in the seventh on an RBI single by Juan Lagares off Matt Grace.
Harper began the day with a two-point lead over Miami’s Dee Gordon in the NL batting race. As some fans chanted "Papelbon" — a reference to his recent dugout brawl with now-suspended teammate Jonathan Papelbon — Harper was plunked.
Harper briefly went down on the dirt and Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud patted him on the back. That quieted the fans who were riding Harper, not that he minds hearing them.
"It’s a lot of fun," he said. "I love the way they are."
Clint Robinson homered in the Nationals seventh.
Collins planned to mix-and-match his lineups in the doubleheader. He started Lucas Duda and Murphy against Gonzalez in the opener, hoping the lefty vs. lefty matchups would help them prepare to face Dodgers ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
Mets: LHP Steven Matz got an injection for his sore back and "hopefully that helps him a lot," Collins said. The 24-year-old rookie is 4-0. He missed two months because of a partial muscle tear on his left side earlier this season, and hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 24. The Mets would like him to start against the Dodgers — he could get a tuneup next week in the instructional league.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (13-12, 2.91 ERA) starts the second game of the doubleheader. He’ll try to finish over .500 in his first season with Washington.
Mets: RHP Matt Harvey (13-7, 2.80) is 5-0 in his last 10 starts. He’s thrown 183 1-3 innings this season — there had been a lot of talk lately that 180 was his target.