WASHINGTON -- The first three innings of the Nationals’ Game 1 doubleheader matchup against the Mets had enough head-turning and eyebrow-raising moments for an entire regulation game. But why settle for early-game excitement when there can be an electric late-game comeback, too.
The Nationals erased a nine-run deficit to force extra innings in their 11-9 loss in nine innings to New York on Saturday afternoon. Their second comeback bid in a row was halted by Francisco Lindor’s two-run homer off Kyle Finnegan. Take a look at some “can you believe that just happened” moments from the nine-inning spectacular.
Stevenson on call
Andrew Stevenson has been staying prepared for his call over the last five seasons with the Nationals. On Friday, as a pinch-runner in the Nats’ ninth-inning rally, Stevenson steamrolled into home plate to score the game-tying run. The following afternoon, he crushed a Statcast-estimated 402 foot, two-run homer into center field to even the score at 9-9 and force extra innings. Stevenson has been vying for playing time in a crowded outfield, which has included stints at Triple-A Rochester to get reps, but he has continued to be reliable when called upon in pinch-run and pinch-hit situations.
“Anytime I get in there, I try to change the game -- whether that’s with a bat, with my legs -- because to get a chance to do this is something I won’t take for granted,” Stevenson said. “So I try to play hard and keep giving them a reason to run me out there again.”
Manager Dave Martinez was ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes during Pete Alonso’s at-bat against Erick Fedde. Martinez initially was tossed by first-base umpire Ryan Wills, and then again moments later by home-plate ump Ben May. The entire situation played out from a bench in the dugout, where Martinez has been limited after undergoing a foot procedure on Thursday. He had to make his way out of the dugout on crutches, and bench coach Tim Bogar took over to manage the remainder of the game. Bogar also managed the Nationals’ game vs. the Phillies on Thursday, when Martinez underwent the prescheduled procedure.
Bold performance by Baldonado
Alberto Baldonado made his Major League debut on Thursday. Two days later, the Nationals showed confidence in the 28-year-old by tabbing him to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. The lefty hurled two hitless and scoreless frames while recording two strikeouts.
“Baldonado did great,” Bogar said.
Mets were ready for Fedde
Fedde’s start was cut short after his pitch count mounted to 80 (51 strikes) in three innings. He allowed nine hits, seven runs (four earned), one walk and one home run. He also struck out two. One play that provided a visual for the frustration of the afternoon came in the second inning, when Fedde cut toward first base to field Jonathan Villar's ground ball. He looked toward home plate, then behind him to first, but the bag was empty because first baseman Josh Bell also had moved in for the grounder. Villar reached safely, and he scored two batters later as part of a four-run frame.
“For me, I don’t think he pitched as bad as it looked,” Bogar said. “Some of those ground balls get to our outfielders, it’s a whole different day for him.”
Soto’s sprint squashed
Unlike the result of that second-inning defensive play, the Nationals were on the receiving end of a slick sequence by the Mets that squashed a potential momentum-building moment in the third. Juan Soto reached second base on Bell's grounder when third baseman Villar, who was covering the bag, fumbled the throw from Lindor. An alert Soto saw the hot corner was empty, and he took off sprinting. Javier Báez picked up the dropped ball in an attempt to apply the tag, but Soto was going to be able to evade him. That’s when Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman dashed to cover third and snagged a throw from Báez to tag out Soto on his leg.