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Ejections epitomize Nats' frustrating loss to Mets

MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- A few members of the Nationals had taken issue with the strike zone of home-plate umpire Marty Foster through the first few innings of their 3-2 loss to the Mets on Saturday afternoon, and by the third inning those tensions boiled over for a pair of ejections during a frustrating day at Nationals Park.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon and manager Dave Martinez were tossed for arguing balls and strikes with Foster. Rendon never said a word before his ejection; Martinez said plenty leading to his.

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WASHINGTON -- A few members of the Nationals had taken issue with the strike zone of home-plate umpire Marty Foster through the first few innings of their 3-2 loss to the Mets on Saturday afternoon, and by the third inning those tensions boiled over for a pair of ejections during a frustrating day at Nationals Park.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon and manager Dave Martinez were tossed for arguing balls and strikes with Foster. Rendon never said a word before his ejection; Martinez said plenty leading to his.

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"It's pretty frustrating to say the least," Rendon said, "especially when you're taking at-bats away from guys."

Rendon had been called out on strikes in each of his first two at-bats, and although he tossed his bat in disagreement after the second strikeout, he said he did not say anything to Foster -- "I don't think my mouth even opened to chew gum," he said -- before he was ejected anyway, for just the second time in his career.

Video: NYM@WSH: Martinez on ejection, 3-2 loss

"The pitch prior to the strikeout, he walked completely out of the hitter's circle, which the hitters aren't allowed to do," crew chief Joe West said via a pool reporter. "Marty said, 'We gotta play. You gotta get back in there.' Then when he called strike three, [Rendon] threw the bat. You have some options there, and Marty felt that what he did was showing him up worse than an equipment violation would have been, and that's why he ejected him.

"You have to do something, or he loses all respect from the players. I understand that he could have [not done anything], but he chose that this was the penalty for what [Rendon] did. So it was more involved than just strikeout, throwing equipment."

Video: NYM@WSH: Severino plates Taylor on a single to right

Martinez was also surprised by what he perceived was a quick hook on Rendon. He raced out of the dugout and was animated in his displeasure with Foster before his eventual ouster. It was his first ejection as Nationals manager, and he put on a show afterwards -- tossing his hat to the ground and kicking the dirt around home plate -- before watching the remainder of the game from his office. Even though the generally mild-mannered Martinez reiterated he is not one to usually criticize umpires, he felt this situation called for it.

"I'm going to protect the guys, I can tell you that right now," Martinez said after the game. "I didn't think that warranted a toss [for Rendon], especially that quick. I mean, Rendon didn't say a word."

It was the start of a disappointing afternoon for the Nationals, who dropped their fourth consecutive game, matching their longest losing streak during all of 2017. Gio Gonzalez was solid and Bryce Harper launched his Major League-leading fifth home run, but normally reliable reliever Brandon Kintzler gave up a pair of runs in the seventh to put the Mets ahead.

Video: NYM@WSH: Gonzalez strands two in the top of the 1st

Meanwhile, the Mets once again looked like formidable challengers in the National League East with their fourth consecutive victory, capped by a five-out save from Jeurys Familia. The Nats need a win Sunday night to avoid a three-game sweep.

"I saw some really good baseball," Martinez said. "We ran the bases well, stole some bases. Harp running hard to first base, hustling down the line. All that stuff matters. I preach all that stuff all the time, about doing the little things. This will turn around. One big hit here or there, and we explode. I'm proud of our team. They're playing 'til the last out, and that's all you can ask."

Video: NYM@WSH: Turner bunt singles, swipes second

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Conforto runs to break up double play: New York scored the go-ahead run off Kintzler in the seventh inning in part because Michael Conforto was running from first on the pitch. Todd Frazier hit a weak ground ball up the middle that was fielded by Howie Kendrick, and although he bobbled the ball a bit, he likely would not have had enough time to try for a double play anyway. Kendrick retired Frazier, but the go-ahead run scored to give the Mets the lead.

Video: NYM@WSH: Cabrera comes home on Frazier's grounder

Harper breaks out: The Mets had done a good job of keeping Harper from beating them through the first game and a half of this series, until the sixth inning Saturday afternoon. Harper launched a solo home run into the visitors bullpen off Mets right-hander Hansel Robles to put Washington ahead, 2-1. It was Harper's Major League-leading fifth home run. Prior to that at-bat, Harper had been 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against the Mets. More >

Video: NYM@WSH: Harper crushes his fifth home run

NATS HAPPY MARTINEZ HAS THEIR BACK
At least two key Nationals took note of the way Martinez reacted after Rendon's ejection.

"You definitely feel good, and you know that someone has your back," Rendon said. "Just to know that he has that fire, to have our backs and he wants to support us as much as he can, that's great. So I like it."

Another player taking note was Harper, who had some strong words of support to say about the first-time manager.

"Awesome," Harper said. "That's what it's all about. He fights for his players and we saw that right there. I was talking to my dad yesterday, and [Martinez is] a manager that you want to fight for, you want to win for, and just the little things that he does that make you want to run through a wall for him and want to win ballgames for him. So that was huge seeing that -- knowing he has our back and we have his."

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: After a brief scare with a left ankle injury, Adam Eaton is expected to return to the Nationals' starting lineup for Sunday's 8:08 p.m. ET series finale against the Mets. Right-hander Tanner Roark will take the mound looking to build off an impressive opening outing to the season.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Anthony Rendon