Zimmerman's 30th helps Nats edge Mets

September 19, 2009

With little left to play for, the New York Mets are still finding frustrating ways to lose.

Ryan Zimmerman hit his 30th homer, Josh Bard drove in three runs and the last-place Washington Nationals held off the free-falling Mets 6-5 on Friday night.

New York rallied for three runs in a wild ninth inning and had runners at second and third when Jeff Francoeur hit a comebacker that knocked Mike MacDougal's glove off his hand. With his mitt on the ground in front of him, the reliever picked up the ball barehanded and lobbed a shaky throw to first for the final out.

"That was about par for the course for us," Zimmerman said. "Mac did a great job."

Francoeur, who had three hits and a stolen base, tossed down his helmet in anguish.

"It's been that kind of season," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

Bard and Josh Willingham also homered to help the Nationals end a three-game skid. Rookie right-hander J.D. Martin had another solid start, sending the Mets to their sixth consecutive loss and 10th in 11 games.

It is New York's longest losing streak since dropping six straight in September 2005, according to STATS LLC.

"The Mets, kind of like us, have had a disappointing year. But you see both clubs battling and you have to respect that," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "They are down by four in the ninth and they had great at-bats. But it just got ugly."

New York (63-85) dropped 22 games below .500 for the first time since finishing 66-95 in 2003.

Zimmerman and Bard each hit a two-run shot off Mike Pelfrey (10-11), who hadn't allowed a home run at spacious Citi Field since Philadelphia's Chase Utley connected on June 10.

Martin (5-4) yielded two runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings, improving to 5-2 with a 3.15 ERA in his last eight starts. Martin was called up from Triple-A Syracuse on July 20 and lost to the Mets in his major league debut that night.

MacDougal struck out Josh Thole with runners at second and third to end the eighth, then pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 17 chances.

It didn't come easily.

David Wright hit a run-scoring single and Carlos Beltran hustled to beat out a potential double-play grounder, tripping at first base and sprawling to the dirt.

"They're fighting," Manuel said. "They put forth a tremendous effort. You can't say that about many clubs that are in the position we're in, that are going to put forth that type of effort to come back."

Beltran's RBI made it 6-4 with two outs. Daniel Murphy then hit a sharp smash toward shortstop, where rookie Ian Desmond made a slick pickup before throwing high to first for an error that allowed another run to score.

With the game suddenly on the line, MacDougal retired Francoeur - on a play that was anything but routine.

"It's unbelievable. I told Jerry, I was sitting in the hole and I told him, 'I am going to win this thing tonight,"' Francoeur said. "It's one of those that right away, right when you hit it, you think you win. I mean, you hit it right back up the middle. It would have been so big for us to have that ball get to the outfield and win. I thought we deserved it, to be honest with you. But that's not the way it goes."

Willingham, not known for his glove, also made a pair of fine plays in left field. He jumped at the high fence in left-center to grab Wright's drive with two on in the third, then threw out Beltran at the plate to end the sixth after catching Wilson Valdez's bases-loaded liner.

Bard smothered the short-hop throw and made a nice tag on the play.

Zimmerman's first-inning shot barely cleared the wall in the right-field corner. He and Adam Dunn (37 homers) are the first pair of Nationals teammates to reach 30 home runs in the same season.

The only other duo in franchise history to do it was Brad Wilkerson and Tony Batista. They both hit 32 homers for the 2004 Montreal Expos.

"I never hit home runs before I got here," Zimmerman said. "It means something to me because it means I'm doing better each year and that obviously is going to help the team win. I think if you're going to be a No. 3 hitter, a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, then that's what you're supposed to do."


MacDougal has pitched more than one inning for a save five times this season. ... Zimmerman's homer also gave him a career-best 100 runs scored. He leads the team in that category. ... Attendance appeared to be considerably less than the paid crowd announced at 38,063.