NEW YORK -- The game between the Nationals and Mets had a postseason atmosphere to it on Friday night at Citi Field. And why not? Both clubs are in the thick of the National League Wild Card race.
When it was over, it was the Mets who won the first game of the three-game series, 7-6, after they rallied for four runs in the ninth inning off Nationals closer Sean Doolittle. The crowd was deafening, especially when the Mets did their damage against right-hander Stephen Strasburg early and rallied against Doolittle late.
Anthony Rendon led the way for the Nats' offense, driving in three runs and hitting a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh.
“[Anthony] is really good,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He has come up with some big hits for us. His presence in our lineup makes us go, and you saw it again tonight.”
But what Rendon did was spoiled by Doolittle, who recorded two outs and allowed six hits in the ninth inning. It appeared that Doolittle didn’t have his best stuff and it seemed like Fernando Rodney was ready to go, but Martinez stuck with Doolittle. No other reliever was entering the game.
“He is our closer. That’s what he does,” Martinez said. “It was unfortunate. I think he couldn’t get the ball up. He is effective when he is up.”
It’s not a surprise that the Mets were able to get to Doolittle in the final inning. In his last three appearances against the Mets, Doolittle has allowed 10 runs in 1 2/3 innings. The Mets tied the game at 6 when Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer. Later in the inning, Michael Conforto hit a walk-off single over the head of right fielder Adam Eaton, which scored Juan Lagares.
“I think we’re doing a good job of getting him up, but not up too much,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said about Doolittle. “When he elevates up above the path, he’s going to be tough. You have to also lay off anything he might throw underneath the zone. So we’re doing a good job of hunting pitches down the middle, middle up, that we can handle and doing damage to them.
“That last one to Conforto’s the perfect example. Left on left, that’s a tough assignment. He leaves it kind of middle up, thigh high, and we get on top of it and put a good swing on it. So they’re really trying to stay on top of the ball with him and make sure that they’re not swinging underneath.”
After the game, Doolittle was trying to figure out why he was hit hard.
“I don’t have a lot of answers right now. I’m kind of searching and going over the inning in my head,” he said. “The one thing that jumps to mind -- I wasn’t really happy with the way the ball was coming out of my hand. I looked at the scoreboard a few times and saw some 91, 92s [mph]. I might have been overthrowing a little bit, overcompensating … trying to do a little too much. [The Mets] were seeing [the ball] really well.”